The bus had stopped somewhere on the highway near Bombay when Nicky woke me up and showed me something happening on the road. I expected it to be an accident or something on the highway.
Seema, Nicky and I were returning from Pune to Bombay by bus, the weekend we went to Pune. Seema was sitting somewhere in the back but Nicky and I had got the front seat which was just behind the driver. I decided to sleep after having two vada pavs at the highway plaza as I was not so comfortable looking at the road, the traffic and the way our driver was maneuvering the huge Volvo through all that in high speed.
Nicky woke me up and asked me to look at something on the road and I could see a part of a lorry in front of us. But before I could look at it properly, I heard a small explosion and what I saw was a petrol tanker lorry on fire just around 20 meters in front of our bus. Our driver tried to take the bus back in vain as there was a huge traffic stopped right behind us. The assistant in our bus was trying to tell the other vehicles to back off but no one could move away from that place. We were just looking at the lorry which was getting engulfed in fire in no time and we knew that it was going to explode any moment. There was a demeaning silence in our bus as we all didnâ€™t know what to do and were just looking at the fire ball and waiting it to explode for all of us to die. Suddenly one of the passengers came into the front and asked the driver to take the bus back. He said the vehicles behind would move if they saw us moving. The driver tried to do that but again had to stop. Then he started pleading to the driver to do something telling him that a petrol tanker if exploded would leave us all dead. The driver still didnâ€™t know what to do as I thought he was shocked.
As I was looking at the lorry which had now turned into a powerful bomb I started seeing death in front of me. I saw the lorry exploding and hitting our bus, I saw me on fire getting thrown off in the air and dieing. I had many questions in my mind thenâ€¦ if that was how I was supposed to dieâ€¦ or would I survive with burnsâ€¦ I thought I had many things yet to be achieved in life but was that all my life was supposed to beâ€¦ My heart was beating fastâ€¦ I saw Achan, Amma, Kuttetan, Eâ€™amma and almost all my dear oneâ€™s facesâ€¦ and then it became a prayerâ€¦ I didnâ€™t want to die.
After some seconds the passenger guy seemed to have regained some senses, he told everyone to take their bags and get out of the bus and run to safer distance. Thatâ€™s when everybody started moving and I took my bag and told Nicky to do the same and then I saw a fire engine splashing water on the fireball. Some one from outside started shouting asking us to take the bus forward beside the fire as fast as possible and get out of that place. Our driver hesitated for a second but then the whole crowd shouted at the driver â€œDO IT FASTâ€. The driver woke up on that and he took the bus forward as fast as he could and we all took the risk of passing near the fire as we were putting ourselves in more danger. Within 10 seconds we were out of danger and everyone put out a sigh of relief. I saw a smile on the driverâ€™s face and the assistant started crying out the next bus stop asking people to get down and everything was back to normal.
It was one of those near death experiences which I had only heard about but had never come to face with till then. It was the scariest moment in my life looking at the petrol tanker on fire not having anything to do but just wait for death. It all happened in 5 minutes I guess, but it felt like a life time for me.
I didnâ€™t talk much to Nicky after the incident as the scene of fire was vivid in my mind. After half an hour we got down at Andheri and I asked Seemaâ€¦
I was looking back at your seat but couldnâ€™t see you, what were your doing? Wasnâ€™t it scary?
I: Huh? The tanker lorryâ€¦ the fire?
Seema: What lorry? What fire? I was sleeping and I got up only some time back.
That was when I was able to laugh a bit as I agreed to the fact that ignorance is bliss indeed.