A friend WhatsApped me ‘100 Ways to Avoid Dying’, an article that had compiled a century of folklore collections that claimed how those were the best ways to stay alive. Despite my morbid dislike for superstition, I read it. It was a long list of do’s and don’ts.
Avoid sweeping after sundown. Don’t move into an unfinished house. Don’t count stars. Avoid combing your hair after dark. The list of superstition had catered to almost all walks of life. As long as you follow these rules, your longevity is guaranteed.
There was nothing serious about it except that it drew my attention towards a few death-dodging experiences I had in life. There are at least four instances that I find shareable.
The first close shave goes back to the mid 90s. I was driving a scooter when an autorickshaw to my left abruptly veered towards me. I felt some sensation in my foot. What I saw next was that the deck of the scooter was full of blood. The sharp swindle of the autorickshaw’s front wheel had swirled through my foot and caused a massive gash. I drove off to the nearest medical emergency.
Everything turned dark
Ten or fifteen feet away from the facility, I started losing control of myself and everything around me started turning dark. The paramedic was petrified as he told me that I got there just in time. A little late and I could’ve died due to blood loss. He had to put twelve stitches to seal the gaping wound and stop the bleeding.
A couple of years later I was night-travelling by a wagon along with my journalist colleagues when we were hit by a speeding tanker on the GT Road in North India. What followed was a coming together of so many lifesaving coincidences that you more often get to see in Bollywood movies than in real life.
We could’ve been crushed to death by a speeding vehicle as it’s a busy highway with heavy vehicles travelling throughout the night. A colleague of ours sleeping in the back seat had changed his position minutes before the accident. Had he not, he would have been left with a broken skull. We were also lucky that we survived the collision into the concrete police beat. I remember the policemen sighing in disbelief as they pulled us out alive.
In yet another tryst with death, I was caught in the middle of a shoot-out between military forces and rebels in a conflict zone. I was on a bike and had to abruptly come to a halt when there was a massive blast followed by incessant bursts of fire.
Bullets flying thick and fast
I wasn’t sure whether to stay put or push off but I decided to leave with bullets flying thick and fast. I started the bike, turned around and sped off, fully aware of the possibility of being within the range of the crossfire. The following morning, I read about the gunfire in newspapers which reported serious casualties as the gunfight had lasted several hours.
The last one is recent. I was unwell and was on antibiotics. I took the day’s last dose of medicine and went to the kitchen to prepare dinner. I left the pressure cooker on the gas and decided to take some rest before coming back to switch the gas off. I fell asleep only to wake up a few hours later in the middle of the night with smoke overwhelming the flat.
I felt choked. So debilitated was I because of the suffocation that it took some effort to get up and find my way to the front door, groping in the dark. As the smoke began to disperse, I ran into the kitchen and switched off the gas. The smog took a couple of hours to go away.
I’m not inclined to putting these experiences down to any divine intervention, but the friend who sent me the article has an answer: whom God keeps, no frost can kill.
Shabir Hussain is a senior journalist based in India