I looked at my watch as I stepped out of the show room in Agra. It was 9.30 in the night. I winced. It would take us more than an hour to reach Vrindavan. We had to get up for mangala arati again the next morning.
We had come to Agra to pick up some things for the upcoming project in Vrindavan, since they were not available there. Things were going on at a frenetic pace and devotees were working over time. We were compelled to come to Agra even though it was late. But I had not expected it to become so late in returning.
As we walked up to the car, Prahlad Prabhu, who had accompanied me, called out to the driver to start the car. Suddenly, in the dim light cast by the pole in the corner of the parking lot, I noticed that the front tyre of the car was pretty low. My heart sank. O Krishna! Not this now! I called the driver out. He had one look at the tyre & said that it was flat. But there seemed to be still some life in the tyre. I looked around and saw a petrol bunk a few buildings away. “Let us drive there”, I said to the driver, getting into the car, hoping that it was only an air leak & refilling the tube would do the job. The driver carefully navigated the car to the petrol bunk and we drove in. To our dismay, there was no power at the bunk.
We asked a few people where the next bunk was. Receiving no proper reply, we decided to drive along the Delhi Agra highway until the next bunk. The driver then drove the car gingerly along the highway, keeping to the extreme left as other vehicles sped past us. After about 2 kilometers or so, we found a petrol bunk & we drove in. Fortunately, things were in order here. We tried pumping in air, but the tyre wouldn’t hold any. We had to change the tyre.
The driver parked the car to a side just along the edge of the bunk, facing the highway. He then got down and unloaded the spare tyre and the jack. He placed the jack underneath the wheel and then we found that we did not have the handle to turn the jack. I looked around and saw one of the bunk staff standing next to us. I approached him and requested for a spare handle from one of their vehicles I saw parked at the other end of the bunk. He then walked back and got one for us. I sighed in relief. We wouldn’t be stuck for the rest of the night. As the driver got down to brass tacks, I turned around to watch the highway. It would take at least another half hour before we could get going.
And then it happened.
As I looked on, I saw two trucks, one behind the other, speeding at about 60 to 80 kilometers per hour along the highway. Unseen to me – and probably to the truck driver too – was an autorickshaw, just ahead of the trucks, loaded with people and going at its own snail’s pace. The three-wheeler had no tail lights and its black colour accorded it near zero visibility. The first truck rammed into the three wheeler from behind, with full momentum and with full force. There was a tremendous screech as steel met steel with high impact.
The truck’s momentum catapulted the three wheeler into the air, with all its occupants. The three wheeler did a cartwheel and landed on its wheels. Aided by the suspension, the three wheeler spun into the air higher than it did previously – to about 6 feet in the air. It did another cartwheel & again landed – miraculously enough – on its wheels, right below a street light pole which had a fused bulb.
The trucks sped on, unheeding, and disappeared into the darkness of the night. Silence reigned supreme. I looked on, my mind numbed and my feet rooted to the ground. The three wheeler’s engine had shut down. The head lights had gone off. Only one of the side lights still glowed.
As I looked on, stunned and aghast, a man stepped out of the vehicle – or what was left of it. He staggered out and then clutching his shoulder, he collapsed. Next out stepped a lady, with a hand bag clutched in one hand and a traveling bag in the other. She was probably returning from somewhere, I guessed. She staggered out and towards the petrol bunk. Behind her came one more man. As the two came forward, a few men from the bunk approached them, attending to them. I realized that there could be some one seriously in need of help still stuck within the vehicle.
I rushed toward the vehicle and as I approached it, I gingerly looked into the mangled remains of the vehicle. I was relieved. There was no one inside. I then looked down and saw the man who had collapsed earlier. He was moaning, holding on to his right shoulder. A few men stood by looking on, doing nothing. I shouted at them, “Help him! See if he needs any urgent medical help. Don’t stand there doing nothing.” My words seemed to transform them for they then walked toward the fallen figure.
It was then that one person said to me, “What about that man?”. My gaze followed his pointing finger. To my horror, in the middle of the road lay a figure, still and unattended, clothed in black. In the dim light which softly bathed the area, I could realize that it was the body of a young man. He was lying on his stomach and his head was turned away from me. From his head to the edge of the road, I could distinctly make out a stream of a dark fluid. Blood – the word rushed to my mind.
I looked back at the other man. He was still moaning and wriggling. Another man, bent over him stood up and said, “He seems to be OK. No danger to life. Probably some broken bones.” I turned my gaze once again to the prostrate figure. Thoughts raced to my mind. I felt sickly. But I quickly brushed them aside. The situation demanded action. My first concern was to protect the body from onrushing vehicles. I was afraid some vehicle would run over him. If he was still alive, that would be his end. I quickly barked orders to the crowd which had started milling around. “Wave your hands at approaching vehicles. Ensure that nobody runs over him.” The men responded immediately. An onrushing car slowed down, seeing the frantically waving crowd, moved over to the far right of the road and passed by without harming the man lying there.
I turned around and rushed to the bunk. The ambulance had to be called right away. As I reached the telephone booth in the bunk, I saw a man already yelling the location of the accident into the instrument. I was relieved. Help would be on the way soon. I returned to the site of the accident. I stood there, thinking what I could do next. Since we all had to do nothing but wait till the ambulance arrived, I decided that I had better chant Hare Krishna to the man lying on the ground. But I did not have the courage to go forward next to him, since I was afraid of what I would see. The last thing I wanted to see was a mangled face. I stood about 3 feet away from the man & started chanting Hare Krishna loudly, for the benefit of the soul. I chanted a few times then moved away as the crowd had started gathering quite a bit.
After an agonizing wait of over 20 minutes, the ambulance arrived. The medico from the ambulance inspected the person lying on the ground and declared that he was dead and that the body could not be removed till the police arrived. With that they drove away.
By now, our car was ready. Seeing that there was nothing more we could do, we got into the car and left for Vrindavan. As we drove away, I remembered a verse from the Srimad Bhagavatam:
“For one who has taken shelter of the lotus feet of the Lord, everything becomes easier. Indeed, even crossing the great ocean of nescience (bhavämbudhi) is exactly like crossing the hoofprint created by a calf (vatsa-padam). For such a devotee, there is no question of remaining in a place where every step is dangerous.”
This material world is indeed a place of danger, where at every step, death stares at our face. But no one takes notice of this fact. Everyone of us goes around blissfully unaware of this. At every place – at home, at work or out in the street – death is lurking. But how many of us take cognizance of this fact? Practically none. We don’t think about it, we don’t discuss about it and we don’t meditate on it. Whenever we see an accident, we sympathize with the victim, but little do we realize that we could well be in the victim’s shoes at any moment.
Nothing is as sure as death. But is there a way to escape it? As indicated in the above verse, only a person who has taken shelter of the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna can do so. As Lord Krishna mentions in the Bhagavad Gita, mam eva ye prapadyante mayam etam taranti te. Only one who takes shelter of Lord Krishna’s lotus feet can escape from the clutches of material nature, which takes its toll in the form of death. This is because Lord Krishna is the master of material nature. As Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, Mayädhyakñeëa prakåtiù süyate sacaräcaram: “Under My direction only is material nature working, and thus are all things moving.”
Since Lord Krishna is the master of material nature, He alone can save a soul surrendered unto His lotus feet from the cycle of repeated birth and death. So it behooves an intelligent person to take shelter of Lord Krishna and save himself from repeated birth and death, before an unforeseen accident takes away his life.