India 2016 | Rickshaw Run, Day 12: A Dead Body on the Road to Guwahati – 15 April

“Got a head-on collision
Smashin’ in my guts, man
I’m caught in a crossfire
I don’t understand” – Bruce Springsteen, “Badlands”

As we drove east on NH-31 in the state of Assam, we could see a throng of people collected on the side of the highway. It wasn’t but a moment had passed when we saw the victim dead on the middle of the road just mere feet from my feet, limbs awkwardly positioned, blood everywhere, bodily & brain matter leaving tracks. He was someone’s son, perhaps brother, father, husband and most certainly friend. He woke up I’m sure just like he did most mornings during the week, possibly heading into work. Today was his last day.

As we were nearing the scene, inside my head, I was screaming “oh no oh no ohno ohnoohno ohnoohno”. Or maybe I was whispering it outside my head while I was saying a prayer inside. Nonetheless, I was also immediately angry as this death was a direct result of the way people drive here. Something we have experienced everyday here; so in an way, maybe I should instead be surprised that this is the first time we are seeing this.

I wrote this as I sat inside our tuk tuk outside a restaurant off the side of the road while the others had lunch. Another couple teams rolled up thirty minutes later to tell me all they saw of the scene was a trail of red leading to a pool of blood and one shoe left standing in the middle of the highway, a reminder to those passing by that they will surely ignore or if not, soon forget.

They were the team that stopped earlier in the morning to help us as our tuk tuk broke down (which resulted in disassembling the carburetor, cleaning it and putting it back together- success!). They had their own experience this morning after we parted. They saw a bicyclist hit by a motorcyclist. Stopping immediately, they ran over to the man who was run over, offering help. Obviously bleeding with a lump on his head, he instead tried to shake it off with a walk, fuming at the man who hit him. Meanwhile, a mob had formed around the motorcyclist everyone punching him, kicking him, until he was barely able to escape their fury. The mob’s aggression immediately turned to our tuk tuk friends, who quickly explained they were only trying to help the victim. Upon corroboration, they were allowed to leave.

This is India.
And this is serious business.
As much as I would want it so, it’s not all fun and games.

There was a time I used chuckle at the insanity of the Indian traffic, each time putting my life into the hands of an Indian driver. I don’t laugh anymore, instead fearing for my life and for that of my friends, who are now the drivers instead of the locals. Driving takes on a different meaning then.

We were told that someone dies in India to a traffic related accident every four minutes.

Should I actually be happy that I’ve only seen one?

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