To be at death’s door

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 didn’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 didn’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 then… if that was how I was supposed to die… or would I survive with burns… I thought I had many things yet to be achieved in life but was that all my life was supposed to be… My heart was beating fast… I saw Achan, Amma, Kuttetan, E’amma and almost all my dear one’s faces… and then it became a prayer… I didn’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. That’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 “DO IT FAST”. 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 driver’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 didn’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 Seema…

I was looking back at your seat but couldn’t see you, what were your doing? Wasn’t it scary?

Seema: What?

I: Huh? The tanker lorry… 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.


  1. Wow. That’s a scary experience indeedy Umeshaa. Am sure glad you made it thru in one piece.

    When did this happen btw?


  2. *Shudder*.

    The flashing of faces, the questions, and the wondering about death, has happened to me too. Last time it happened, I was on a flight to Kochi, and there was tremendous turbulence, we were being shaken out of our seats, a red light was flashing outside, and there was this wierd siren for a few seconds. Thankfully, it was okay after about 10 seconds, and we were heaving sighs of relief.

    Such experiences are good in some ways. They remind you of that which is most important in your life… Helps you to bring some perspective :).

  3. thanks to visitor i found this..

    a touching story… i wonder what i would i have done in that position..funny thing the human mind is…

  4. Jai: This happened on 20th May ’07 around 10.30pm.

    Shikha: Oh turbulances have scared me too but not to this levels. the worst one was on an early morning Air India flight from Bombay to Chennai 3 years ago. The Airhostess almost fell off with the tray she was holding. Read Shripriya’s story on how she experienced an emergency landing.

    Susheel: Good question. I did think of the camera later when i was out of it but i was not carrying one anyways. But even if i was carrying one i dont think i would have been able to take pictures.

    Vishesh: Welcome to NBS. It was too scary and we all had a trapped feeling inside the bus that we couldnt do anything for some time other than just stare at the fireball. Anyways hope to see you around here on NBS… Keep visiting

    Thanks to Visitor for the link love… 🙂

  5. Hey umesh ,

    my hair was standing thru this one !!! the images u mentioned came live in front of my eyes while i read this …. THANK GOD that nothing happened i cant even begin to get to imagining the what if of this scene ! all i can say is THANK YOU GOD …

  6. “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.” … Wasnt it foolhardiness ?? It could have exploded at any moment rt ?

  7. All: Thanks for the prayers

    Ajith: Come to think of it now, yes it was foolishness. But i think everbody wanted to get out of that place but were waiting for someone to say. We took a risk but were lucky enough to get out of there.

  8. I have a different perspective to the whole incident though…I dunno how to describe it but lets try…

    I was the one to wake you up that time. I’m not sure what was going through my mind that time. I dunno whether i fear death or no…but I think I don’t. thats why life didn’t flash in front of my eyes that time.

    I believe that if that was the time to go, then that was it!!! the Big Man up there has given us a list of things to do. So the fact that we survived that day, proves that we’re still not done completing that checklist 😉 .

    Enough with the philosophy…but for real…this incident was just like a reminder from Him to enjoy life till it lasts and do good until then… 🙂 Cheers to Life!!!

  9. Nicky: ente nicky nee valiyaa aalaayi. nee aalu bhayangarana tto. veruthe alle nee PM aaye 🙂 jokes apart i agree to your view that it was a reminder that the end can be anytime and anywhere and have to appreciate the fact that we r alive and live every moment of it.

    Raj: hey the idea was to give a vdo experience and glad that you got it. i can take it expecially when it comes from u. i have always visualised your stories like a vdo… 🙂

  10. Umesu,
    Why did you waste the opportunity? You could have jumped to the driver seat and could have done any of our Captain’s stunts. What is the use of you being a captain’s fan? Wasted opportunity! 🙁

    P.S.:- Just kidding! It’s already hot and wanted to cool.;-)

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  12. I was surfing through your posts and read this whole incidence. I can imagine the situation. Thanks to the person who shouted and gave the idea of taking the bus ahead. In the end u wrote ignorance is bliss…in this case it was indeed a bliss. 🙂

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