The winds slap at my face as
This infernal vehicle which makes me wish I had my prayer beads to clutch at
And mouth words I have not mouthed since childhood
Takes me through a ride that stops my heart. Again. And again.
I think back to the bundle of my flesh and blood
Waiting for me to return and
Run to me, for me to inhale intoxicate myself with the smell of
Small boy sweat and relief, and grubby fingers clutching me
Bhaiya dheere chalao, koi jaldi nahin hai
I tell the man, while I count the minutes to reaching home.
Knowing that the minutes will wait
The seconds will morph into a seamless whole
The moment will get frozen into a split when
I see myself flying through the air
And the asphalt rushing towards me, crisp and crackling
With the moltenness of a day’s sun soaked into it,
And the crunch of metal piercing
My ears. The thud of the back landing on unyielding ground.
The screech of brakes as the oncoming traffic stops.
I hear from another place
A jagged cry from my lips
as the hand is pinned beneath the weight of
Metal. The sensation of time slowing down as faces
Look down at me with concern and hands lift the weight
Off my hand. Swollen. Bones broken.
Bhaiya dheere chalaana
I have my hand. Mummified. In white crepe.
I can go home and hold my boy.
Tight. And smell his little boy sweat and see his wondering eyes
Light up as I enter, confident that I would come home to him
(This was written some days after a particularly gruesome accident on the Western Express Highway in Mumbai, where my autorickshaw slammed into a suddenly braking car up front, turned turtle and had two of my fingers of my right hand pinned under it. Particularly poignant for me, two thoughts at that second, that I would never see my child again and that I wouldn’t be able to type again.)