Monday, March 2, 2015

Getting into a car accident in India

Previously, I have talked about how dangerous it is to be on the road in India - and to be quite honest, I'm surprised that our latest trip was actually the first time ever that we got into a car accident there. Hopefully, it will be our last, and by the grace of God, nobody was injured.

We were all on our way to a family get-together, and we were so excited because the extended family would finally be able to meet Maya, and my mum as well. We got all dressed up with our beautiful new outfits. We left from Jubilee Hills around 6pm and got stuck in the worst, most aggressive traffic that was coming out of Hi-Tech City. Everyone was getting off work and they wanted to get home as fast as possible, no matter who they ran over en route. We decided to use a substitute driver because our regular driver, Ashok, had a previous commitment. He would pick us up from the event, but he couldn't drive us there.

We left the hotel and we all piled into the car. My MIL sat in the front seat, my mum and I sat in the back seat, with Maya firmly squished between us, and husband-ji sat in the very back seat (the trunk part). We were only about 5 minutes into our journey when it happened. All of a sudden, the car that was in front of us swerved and came to a halt, so fast that our driver slammed on the breaks, but still hit him. We all jerked forward, myself and my mum's head crashing against the seat in front of us. My MIL was not wearing her seatbelt in the front seat, and her head literally touched her knee. As soon as I realized what had happened, I looked beside me. Maya - who was squished in between us only a second ago - was flung all the way to the front divider between my MIL and the driver. I started screaming and I grabbed her, she was face down. When I pulled her up, I realized she had no injuries, but she started crying. She was totally shook up. 

My mum was in the worst shape - she immediately felt dizzy and nauseous. I saw the whole thing because my eyes were ahead on the road, but my mum was looking sideways at Maya, and didn't anticipate the accident. None of us were wearing our seat belts. I felt a rush of uncontrollable anger come over me, and so did the driver. He tried to open his door so he could go and shout at the man in front of us, but he couldn't even open his door because the whole front of the car was totaled. The man's car in front of us had not even a scratch on it. Lucky bastard.

The man in front of us got out of the car and you could tell he had an air of arrogance. He argued with our driver that it wasn't his fault and waved to his car, as proof that he committed no fault. His pompous apathy made me livid. The driver motioned to us that we had all seen it. The arrogant man walked over to us and asked - if he had caused the accident, then why was his car unharmed? The part that really ignited my fury was that when he approached the car, you could tell that he was impaired - either by drinking or taking some kind of drug. His pupils were dilated, he was not walking properly, and he was in slow motion. I screamed at him and told him that we had this accident precisely because of his reckless driving and that my young child could have gotten seriously hurt. I was appalled that he didn't even acknowledge that his actions have consequences. No empathy, no responsibility, his car was fine so that's all that mattered to him. I was screaming SO loud that husband-ji actually told me to quiet down. I was kind of shocked that I was more angry than him - he is the one with the notorious Taurean temper!

In true Indian fashion, my MIL and husband-ji got over it almost immediately. Whatever, we survived, not our car. Meanwhile, my mum and I were in a state of shock, thinking that we were THIS CLOSE to something worse that could have happened. We felt a mixture of our own mortality, and luck. Not to mention, I was completely disgusted at the arrogant man who decided to risk everybody else's life by driving impaired, being on some substance.

We all got out of the car and were blasted by rush hour traffic horns, pollution, and staring. We were stranded at this bus stop which smelled like a mixture of petrol, piss, and dust - for 45 minutes. My mum's neck was hurting and she put her head between her legs, thinking she was going to vomit. Husband-ji frantically called the hotel to try to get another driver to pick us up and nobody was available. We were stranded in our fancy clothes, wearing gold, in the dark, in the middle of nowhere, at a bus stop... right after a car accident. At that point, I felt like Mother India was going to devour me whole and I felt like she was warning me that it was my time to leave. I was a little relieved that we were booked to fly out the next week - back to my cold, calm, and quiet Canada. How I missed the boring politeness of my native country. In that moment, every horn that honked sent shockwaves through me - it was sensory overload - with nowhere to run for shelter. 

By the time a car came to pick us up, my mum was feeling so sick that we had to drop her off to the hotel. I wondered if the car accident was a sign that we shouldn't go to the party. That maybe Shiva was trying to tell me something. 

I brushed over my doubts, and we carried on to the party - already feeling guilty that we were over 2.5 hours late to meet everyone. And it turned out to be an absolute disaster. I should have trusted my instinct and not have gone, but it was one of those moments where I had to go along and put on a good face, because let's face it, the fact that I'm the lone Firangi Bahu is not at all in my favour...already I am on thin ice for just being who I am.



To be continued...

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18 comments

  1. Hi, Alexandra, that sounds horrible, I can just imagine the scene. Being an ethnic Indian, I can tell you how helpless I feel when faced with situations like these in India....you just feel helpless because systems don't work....and that's why people get over it immediately, its disaster management on a day to day basis. Thank goodness Maya was safe, poor baby....yes always trust your instinct.was just curious, why was dinner a disaster? Because you were late? Stay safe....

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    1. It is true....in Canada I know what I would do but since I was out of my element, I was at a loss. Totally stranded! It was scary...
      My husband has been in many....he remembers when he was a child being on a bus in TN and it almost crashing. He still has nightmares about it!
      My next post will be about the dinner....it was a disaster for other reasons. Stay tuned...

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  2. Oh wow! A car accident in india is one of my worse fears. Thank god you were not going to fast. In punjab many of the roads are very open and the car go very fast with no sense of lanes at all. My husband and I would go out on the scooter leaving my daughter at the flat with inlaws and I feared leaving her a orphan because an accident usually meant death. Im sorry you could not go hone after it happened, its a traumatic, hope it never happens again

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    1. Yes - and with so much traffic, how would an ambulance even come to/fro in time?
      I hope that was our last accident too!

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  3. So glad that you and your family are safe and no one was seriously injured. I understand how hard it must have been for you. The population makes it 10 times harder to enforce any kind of lane discipline or control. Unfortunately such incidents have become common and hence people get over it quickly. Hopefully this will be the only accident and your future India trips will be safe. Take care

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    1. Thank you...yes, hope so. It was very frightening...

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  4. So much could have gone wrong and I am so glad it didn't!

    Raina.

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    1. Thank god....next time I am bringing a car seat, no doubt!!!

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  5. I was hit by a backing vehicle my second night in Delhi :) Wasn't hurt but I learned to watch where I was going better!

    I was in two accidents when I was there. One was just a fender-bender; the person who was driving the car I was in gave the other guy 1000 Rs and all was well. The other was an accident that was absolutely avoidable; we rode with a guy who insisted he was sober, but he was lying. He ran the car into a barrier and it was undrivable; his brother came later to drop us all home. Luckily we got out of that with only minor injuries; I had a scrape on my arm and had a sore back and jaw for the next few days.

    Others were not so lucky. My friend's brother was killed in a road accident while I was there. Shocking and very sad.

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    1. It is so so so scary, almost surreal. Thank god you are okay, yours sounds much more severe.
      On our trip we came to know a friend of a friend had died on the road. So many people we know have gone like that, prematurely. It is very dangerous on the road.

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  6. After 10 years of coming to India I find more and more that people don't take responsibility for their actions no matter how grievious. It's always the other person's fault.

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    1. Yes!!! Really, the lack of empathy absolutely disturbed me. The profound carelessness and disrespect for human life. I feel it is just getting worse as years go on, people have no patience at all.

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  7. @ Alexandra

    I thought south indian cities are a little bit civilized but it seems that the Delhi bug has bitten everyone. This kind of arrogance and indifference is typically Delhi. Here is a story of a women who lost her daughter to a accident at a traffic crossing and has been visiting that particular spot everyday and managing the traffic for years so that such accidents are not repeated.

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/noida/Mom-who-lost-17-year-old-in-accident-turns-traffic-cop-in-Ghaziabad/articleshow/45017220.cms

    Traffic is an issue which has many aspects and it is time that we do something about it.

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    1. That is awful....how heart breaking. I totally agree with you - citizens can be vigilant themselves and volunteer for the betterment of safety - especially regarding things like traffic which are so under-funded and over-looked.

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  8. A vehicle collision is always horrific and I am glad no one was gravely injured (the aggressor or the victim). However, one line in your blog post captures the sentiment one must apply to driving in India (particularly Hyderabad): just get over it. Sad but true.

    Having lived for several years in many South Indian cities + Goa + Maharastra, I find that Hyderabad has the worst traffic. I think this has to do with the general populace of the city and how they are adapting to unridled economic expansion -- lower level of education coupled with a more asymmetric expansion (as compared to say other cities - but I need to back this up with proper data) leading to traffic woes. The expansion (economic/political) was quicker than the rate of change of the mindset of the populace and hence the insane traffic woes. Of course, this is not only the story of Hyderabad but it Hyd happens to be the worst offender in my (and my family's) experience.

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    1. Yes, I noticed the asymmetrical structure of the city as well, and it just makes it worse to be honest! Especially these past few years, the expansion has been too much to handle.

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  9. Thank God there were no serious injuries and that you all are fine now.
    Were there any police in sight who could have helped? In Mumbai, we see traffic police on roads and at intersections and they are efficient in writing tickets for violations. The local newspaper also prints names of those arrested or ticketed for alcohol/drug impairment.
    But it is mostly the lack of value for the life of others that is the root cause of these problems.
    Hope Maya was not not too traumatized by the accident...she always looks so happy and smart.

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    1. No police in sight at all, and nobody bothered to even stop! Bunch of insensitive gawkers who couldn't care less. Ugh. Absolute lack of value on all fronts.
      Thank god Maya was okay.....the next day she was totally fine.

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