This morning as my finger furiously slid over a zillion posts on WhatsApp, it turned on a video clip of a horrific traffic accident on a street in India. I glanced at the blurred clip as my hand searched for my reading glasses. I wish I hadn’t found them. The 40 second clip rivaled any war footage of mangled soldiers I’d seen in movies. Only, this wasn’t fiction.
As horrific as the clip was, I was shocked at the apathy of the passersby. They gawked as this young man lay in two separate pieces on the road. He was still alive.
Someone not only videoed the indignity of his tortured final moments, but posted it. This man has family. He was someone’s child.
True, rubbernecking is something we’ve all done. But I had to wonder what it must’ve been like for him.
Twelve minutes (A work of Fiction)
At first all I saw was the haze. From my vantage point, haze shouldn’t hang so low to the ground, almost touching grey asphalt. Damn. Exhaust from a motorbike. So easy to confuse. The motorbike’s wheels swing so close to me, braking when the rider passes as if he’s just spotted me. Too late. The wheels strike the puddle, splattering my face.
Slow down, I say. What’s your hurry?
He looks at me, stunned. But traffic has to maintain its flow if everyone is to reach his destination on time. A halting rhythm is such an inconvenience. So the rider speeds on, wheels stained red. He turns to catch one last glimpse.
I get his curiosity. I’ve done my share of rubbernecking. Yesterday, so many of us had paused at this very spot to watch a man detangle string from a hawk and set it free. I posted the video of his valor instantly on YouTube. Three hundred hits within the hour.
How is today any different?
For one thing, the day’s soundtrack has been silenced. The honking of car horns, the squealing brakes of buses, the complaining wheels of the rickshaws, the vroom-vroom of scooters, mopeds, and motorbikes as their riders impatiently revved engines, squeaky bicycles. Don’t forget the hum of pedestrians and the raucous street vendors. There’s none of that. Just silence. Busses pass me. Passengers stare through open windows, cell phones primed to click, click, click.
Today, it’s my turn to be fodder for a WhatsApp or Facebook post. How many shares? Will I go viral?
I run my hands through my hair. Then drop my arms to my side, slide it over my chest, my stomach and stop. There’s nowhere else my hands can go. I turn my head slightly. Huh. I see. My backpack lies about five feet from the rest of me, contents scattered over the road. Lunch ruined. Term paper in the wind. House keys still intact.
Right now, I’d give anything for sliced bananas on toast. Should’ve had some for breakfast. Mom did offer.
People start to walk toward me. Tentative. Hands clasped in prayer. They stop a few feet away where my cellphone wails. One man picks it up and answers.
He looks at me helplessly and shakes his head.
It’s gotten so cold. The faces blur, clear, and smudge. Fade in. fade out.
Traffic hasn’t let up. But it’s slowed to a crawl. New faces. Same shock. Similar disbelief.
Click, click, click.