Thursday, June 22, 2006

The other side…

A couple of years back, on our trip to India we had a..should I say, enlightening experience. If our experience with the Good Samaritan was great, this was the exact opposite of it. I felt I had to blog about both experiences.

We were going to Tirupati from Bangalore by road. We had booked a Toyota Qualis (not unlike our SUVs here). It’s a distance of about 160 miles and on Indian roads should have taken us about 5 to 6 hours. We started bang on time, an unusual occurrence in itself for us…many who know us will agree that we are not the most punctual people. It was about 9.00 am. We figured, with a break for lunch and everything we would get there by about 4.00 in the afternoon, giving hubby plenty of time to climb the hills by foot (which he does every time we go to Tirupati). It usually takes him less than 2 hours to climb. For mere mortals like me, it takes about 4-5 hours. He is very much used to it as he has been climbing the Hills by foot since he was a kid. We ( my parents, kids and me) would continue up in our vehicle and get settled in before he joined us.

The plan remained the same this time too. We were on the road in good time and actually got through the Bangalore traffic in decent time. We passed the outskirts of Bangalore and hubby even remarked that we might actually get there before time! Wow! Never happened before. We marveled at the newly laid highway as our driver whizzed past busses and other traffic at reasonable speed (forgot to tell you - whenever you hire a car in India, you get a chauffer too). He was obviously used to this route and could drive with his eyes closed. We chatted merrily and enjoyed the drive. When we got near Kolar, this guy suddenly started crossing the busy highway with a huge bale of grass on his shoulder. He seemed oblivious to the oncoming traffic. Our driver honked several times, but the guy didn’t flinch. Our car was going at a speed where it would have been dangerous for the driver to brake all of a sudden(the car could have toppled with all of us in it.) we were hoping the guy would hear the honking and move quickly, but nothing…

And the car hit him..... All this happened so fast, in a matter of seconds. We were terrified and of course, we all got out of the car and tried to help him up. However, within minutes, it seemed, many people materialized, almost out of nowhere and started harassing us. We agreed to take the guy to the nearby village hospital and go to the police station to settle the matter. We were concerned about his safety and were ready to do what it takes. Little did we know what we were getting ourselves into.

One thing we realized when we got down to help the guy was that he was stone drunk. We got to the village hospital soon enough and the police station was just opposite to it. The guy went in to be checked by the doc while we waited outside. The kids were freaked out by the whole experience and so was I. We were all very tense. Waiting in the hospital was no help. One of the nurses walked out and told us the guy had to be taken to another hospital, about a half hour away for an x-ray, since they did not have the necessary equipment. The man’s wife( we later learned that in all probability was not his wife!) came now and started kicking up a big racket and asking for money. The demand started at 10,000 rupees. We were happy to pay for the person’s treatment and do the needful. But the demands kept increasing. We went to the police station, where, it seemed the inspector there was quite used to this sort of thing! He advised us to pay the man and move on.

While we were still confused about what was going on and trying to figure things out, our driver, poor guy, was trying to placate the villagers. He agreed to take the injured guy in the car to the other hospital for the x-ray, while we waited there. We agreed and waited for several hours while they were gone. Meanwhile, the family still kept asking for money.

Our driver returned a few hours later and we learned that the guy was fine, no fractures. Thank goodness! Now came the police station scene. A number of villagers had gathered at the police station. The inspector there talked to our driver (our driver advised us to stay away). After a long discussion, they decided on a certain sum of money and this soon exchanged hands.Somewhere along the way, some sort of report was also filed. We were told we could leave. We thankfully got into the car and drove off. It was way past lunchtime and we were all starving. But most importantly we were out of there.

We later learned that this was a daily occurrence and a source of income for some people in the village. They would send one person out into the traffic; making sure a small vehicle hit him. They were careful not to send people into the path of buses or trucks. The group would then get together and harass the occupants of the vehicle for large sums of money. If the occupants insisted, as we did, on going to the police station to settle the matter legally, they would agree, as it seems, some of the police men are in cahoots with these people and they all share the money!!

Apparently, when our driver walked in with the injured guy into the hospital, the doctor took one look at him and said,” you again? When are you going to stop putting your life at risk to make some money?”

I was appalled listening to all this. Imagine pushing one person into the traffic so some of them could make a few extra bucks. We also later learned that, sadly, the person who actually put his life at risk got the smallest cut(mostly just some booze money) while the rest of the group made off with the rest of it!

If there are wonderful people in the world, there are others who spare no thought before they put the lives of a lot of people at risk for their personal gains. The accident that day could have turned out much worse if they had miscalculated their whole plan by a second. The man could have lost his life. My whole family, my parents, my kids, hubby, the driver and I could have been seriously injured or worse!! Why don’t people think of the consequences of their actions? At what cost do they wish to make money?

I am just so thankful that no one was seriously hurt that day. We were all badly shaken after the incident. We went on our way and reached Tirupati late in the evening at about 8.00 pm., much later than our scheduled time. Hubby still climbed the hills by foot and we all reached our room, had dinner and got settled in close to midnight.

What a day! What an adventure! That’s one adventure I do not want to ever have in my life ever again.

Note: The town of Tirupati, located in Andhra Pradesh, in South India, is one of the most sacred places in India. The shrine of Lord Balaji is located atop one of a cluster of seven hills in the town of Tirumala. Every day thousands of devotees flock there, waiting for hours for a glimpse of their God, Lord Balaji (Lord Venkateswara).


At 10:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank God everyone including the idiot who got hit were all right. I know what you mean and have seen such scenes in other parts of India. In the foothills of Coorg, they are known to drive animals into the path of an oncoming car and, when it's mowed down, demand huge sums of money. It's terrible what some people can do for money.

At 10:48 PM, Blogger couch potato said...

Nicely written and I can understand the terror of it all. Especially when a mob of people gang up against travellers and start harassing them.

At 12:02 AM, Blogger Travelin' Tracy said...

wow! I read about experiences like that and I know that I have been blessed in my travels. Off the top of my head I can't think of anything that was really crazy like that. I'm glad everyone was okay.

At 3:01 AM, Blogger Vj said...

that's a nice story and u write it so well .Iam glad I stumbled upon ur page . hope to be a regular

At 9:22 AM, Blogger travel plaza said...

Thanks for visiting my blog.
Yes, I really thank God that everyone was okay that day.
It indeed terrible what some people will do for money.

At 9:28 AM, Blogger travel plaza said...

Thanks so much. the whole experience was very scary, especially for the kids. My younger son was terrified to get into a car for a long time after the incident. We really had to coax him along!
So gald you didn't have such horrible experience in the course of your travels. I wish you the best for all your future travels too. Yeah, all of us were very relieved that everyone involved was okay.

Welcome to my blog. Thank you so much for your kind words and I hope you'll visit again:)

At 10:28 AM, Blogger Pooja Aggarwal said...

Nice narration. My sis had a similar experience where their car was hit by a bus and then the policeman was asking for money to file an FIR. Among this whole propoganda of "India Shining", I hope someday things can improve at the base level.

At 11:06 AM, Blogger Gangadhar said...

What a dreadfulstory..I'm so sorry for what had happened to you people..yeah on the highways these kind of incidents happen..And i could visualize the entire scene and understood the agony u faced..
Glad that you're out of that situation..
Lord Balaji's with you...

btw to which part of India you belong? If u wish u can

take care

At 5:08 PM, Blogger travel plaza said...

I agree that change has to start at the grass roots level. Hopefully that day will come soon.

Thanks so much for your kind words. Yes, we too felt that Lord Balaji is with us.

I am from B'lore.

At 6:51 AM, Blogger Dav said...

What a mess! I'm glad that nobody was seriously hurt! But I do hope they get what's coming to them.

At 10:36 AM, Blogger travel plaza said...

I'm just hoping that nobody else has to ever go through this mess.

At 10:18 AM, Blogger Mridula said...

I too have heard about similar incidents. It must have been so horrible for you all. I am glad you all came out well in the end.

At 10:41 AM, Blogger travel plaza said...

Thanks Mridula.

At 11:28 AM, Blogger Britmum said...

Oh my gosh and I thought those of us in the Harwood Cicus has some adventures.

I am glad that you were all o.k. and not finacially ruined.

Take carexx

At 5:12 PM, Blogger travel plaza said...

Thanks so much. Yup, we sure have had our share of adventure!

At 10:12 PM, Blogger Ravenbajan said...

That's actually quite sick that people would do something like that! I'm glad that your family is okay and hopefully it is an experience that you never have to go through again. That brings the term 'con artist' to a new level!

At 10:38 AM, Blogger travel plaza said...

Thank you Ravenbajan.
You said it so right. Even for con artists I think that is an all time low. They are playing with peoples lives! I don't know what could be worse.

At 10:58 AM, Blogger doow said...

My goodness, what a story!mdlwa

At 12:31 PM, Blogger travel plaza said...

It was quite an experience!

Welcome to my blog:)

At 12:35 PM, Anonymous Anil said...

Stranger things have happened before, and we haven't seen the worst yet.

At 12:48 PM, Blogger travel plaza said...

Hi Anil, Welcome to my blog:)
Well, that's about all the strangeness I can handle, for me or for anyone else. Hope not see anything worse than that.

At 5:26 PM, Blogger dfhusdhfaisf said...

wow i have never ever been to india.....

At 9:08 PM, Blogger travel plaza said...

let's kick some hunnie buns,

Welcome to my blog:)

You should visit India if you get a chance. Its the most beautiful, vibrant country ever!

At 12:19 AM, Blogger dfhusdhfaisf said...

thx for the comment

:D :D


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