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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Yesterday death kissed me and then ditched me

by Alok Ranjan on Sunday, April 24, 2011 at 3:15pm

Just 24 hours back I experienced something which may seem scary to some and feels like just a scary dream to me right now. You may call me lucky that I am alive to tell you the story.

Yesterday, on April 24, 2011,I reached Rishikesh, with nothing but a small backpack. It was 3:30 am, and I knew only one thing. I had to go to Ram Jhula where all the hotels and dharmashalas are located. It was too early and none of them were open. So I decided to spend one hour on the cemented bank of the Ganges.

What a lovely experience! Cool breeze, silence and nothing to enter your ears except the sweet sound of the flowing river. Well, this sweet sound was going to turn into cacophony a few hours later.

I meditated there for one hour. It made me feel like an Indian yogi who has renounced everything and is busy finding the heavenly pleasure within him.

Then I checked into a hotel, put my stuff there and started roaming around the small city with a small bag. In the noon, I decided to spend a few hours on the beautiful bank of the river. I could see florescent grey sand, shiny rocks and green water speeding like an army of centipedes. 

I sat on a small rock, pulled out my drawing book and started drawing random stuff. There were families, couples and sadhus taking bath with ultimate ease. It brought me some courage and I decided to go into the water.

The water was cold. I kept going in and coming out. But I couldn’t come out this time. I was enjoying myself waist deep in the water and took one step ahead. Just a small step, ignorant of the huge pit waiting for me.

That step changed the whole quality of the experience. I was fluttering like a caged bird in the water, trying to get my foot on solid ground or to keep myself above the surface of the water. It didn’t help much since I have never tried my hand at swimming before. I also tried to learn swimming but there was no enough time. I was frustrated, helpless and confused.

Confused because too many thoughts were stricking my head:
 ‘What’s this happening? Am I dying?’
 ‘No way. I can’t be dying. Death is something which happens to others, not to me.'
'Palmistry says I have a strong line of life. Idiots! Now I know palmistry is bullshit.'
 ‘Oh, no! I am going to die. It’s death. Pure death. I am here for just a few seconds more.’

Then a blinding white light flashed in my eyes and a final thought came into my head:
'How is my mother going to feel when she comes to know (if she comes to know) that I am gone forever?'

Then the light and the thought vanished. I gripped my nose as the final effort to keep myself afloat, and lost my consciousness.

Have you seen Danny Boyle’s 127 HOURS? These 127 seconds were not less intense than those 127 hours the hero had spent with his hand under the rock.

When I came back to senses, I was lying on the sand like an injured snake. I had the minimal sense of what was going around. Many people had surrounded me. I had to work hard just to open my eyes for a second. I could hear what they were saying for a moment. Then I used to go blank. My entire body was aching.

That happens when the amount of GANGAJAL exceeds the amount of blood in your body.

I started vomiting buckets of water. It helped me a lot. I also had a momentary hope that I would be okay in a few minutes with the help of sheer willpower. But sometimes willpower also needs a little help from physical power which I had lost entirely.

What happened in the next one hour is in my memory in short flashes. I remember lying on a motor boat, getting into an ambulance with oxygen mask on my nose, and being assisted by two people. Late on I came to know they were Wing Commander Ajay Kishore Mishra and Gaurav Tripathi. Two air force pilots to whom I owe the remaining part of my life completely.

They took me to a hospital where I was given glucose and more oxygen. Doctors checked my pulse rate and blood pressure, and assured that I was out of any serious danger.  Then Ajay called up my father and brother, telling them the entire story. It scared them and worried them. My sister, brother-in-law and my mother came to know about it. I started getting calls but I was in no condition to receive them.

After one hour of helpless and senseless lying, I finally got some strength to open my eyes. Ajay and Gaurav had left some fruits for me, promising to come back after a few hours. My father, brother, sister and brother-in-law had gotten their air tickets booked to Delhi.

Like many other government hospitals, there was nobody to attend to me except some bodies lying on the beds around me.  One old man was lying on the floor. He seemed to be in deep sleep. He was a victim of NASHAAKHURANAS (they make the travelers on trains or buses smell some intoxicant and rob them of every paisa they have). He had not opened his eyes for three days. One young man was lying on a bed, badly injured with blood scattered on his head and hands. He was beaten up by some goons. But the cops were interrogating him as if he had beaten up the goons and had gotten himself admitted into the hospital for redemption. The third body belonged to another young man. He had just met with a road accident. The doctors and nurses were discussing when to do his post-mortem.

By evening I had gained enough strength to walk a little bit. I went to the male toilet. The dirt out there could relieve anybody of his desire to relieve himself.

Then Ajay and his brother-in-law Bohitesh came to meet me. They told me the entire story as it happened. They saw me beating the water with hands and legs incessantly. First they thought I was swimming in an unusual way. But quickly they realized nobody ever swimmed that way. Then they saw me gripping my nose with fingers and taking a dive. After a few moments my body was floating on the water.

They quickly reached to me and tried to hold me. It was a dangerous thing to do considering the speed of water. Ajay tried to hold me from the back. My body was stiff like a wooden block. They started waving their hands to a rafting boat. The man on the boat quickly reached to me. He was wearing a life jacket which could manage weight up to 150 kg. With his help, my senseless body was brought on the sand.

Quickly people surrounded me. Something interesting to watch, eh! I had lost my pulse and breathing. I looked every inch dead. Some of the onlookers quickly transformed themselves into 'medical experts' and started giving crisp commentary on why it was useless trying to save me.

For five minutes, Ajay and his wife Vani kept trying to push my back and give some first aid therapy. Then my stiff body made its first physical movement. I started vomiting water. The holy water of the Ganges had purified me from inside, and now it needed to come out.

As the water came out, my breathing came back. I also started making some sound. It looked I had chances of staying alive. They got me on a motor boat to cross the river and get to a hospital. The boat was in a nasty mood and its motor broke down in the mid of the river. Another motor boat arrived in a while. I was shifted to it.  Ajay and Gaurav were holding my arms. We walked to the ambulance which was one kilometer away. They took help of a cop who seemed disinterested at first citing the fact that he was on a VIP duty. But after some verbal rebuke, he decided to help. There was another stimulant also for his desire to help. He wanted to know what I was carrying in my bag. Maybe he was hopeful that he would find lots and lots of currency notes of 1000 rupees.

People at the government hospital didn’t seem very helpful either. The staffs and attendants refused to touch the stretcher. After all they are paid for doing the extreme hard work of taking their salary on the first day of every month. Doing anything beyond this would look suspicious in the eyes of their superiors.

I have already written what happened in the hospital after that. A very good friend of my brother quickly took a taxi from Delhi . Ashutosh reached there by the night; then we departed for Delhi.

Right now I am staying at his house, looking completely healthy. No symptoms of any physical or psychological damage are visible on my body. But I am feeling weak. It will take me one or two days to get my strength back. Ajay and Gaurav have called me up many times asking about improvement in my health. 

As the news is spreading, I am getting calls from my relatives. They are asking only one question: “Why the hell did you go alone?”

Now I feel I just saw a scary dream. But it was no dream. My destiny had put me into the jaws of death and had snatched me back.

You may call it what is known as a ‘Near Death Experience’. I don’t remember anything about what happened during those 15-20 minutes of the loss of consciousness. I don’t remember my soul being pushed into an endless tunnel, seeing weird lights and meeting any angel who said to me, “Alok, your time is not over yet. Go suffer the world for a few decades more.”

But I remember the extreme helplessness I felt when I was trying to save myself from drowning. Now I know I am as near to death as anybody else. Death is not impartial to somebody just because he is young, healthy and slightly cocky about his imaginary omnipotence.

Generally such incidents bring a permanent shift in the paradigms of people who experience them. They start looking at life in a completely new way. They lose the fear of death, become more loving towards others and start thinking more about what is really important and unimportant in life.

I have experienced no such change in my thinking so far. But I am hopeful. If such a rare experience doesn’t bring any valuable change in me, it would stay in my head just as an unforgettable but meaningless event.