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Near death experiences and the secrets they reveal...

Do near-death experiences always convey life lessons?

brunch Updated: Apr 15, 2018 00:38 IST
Rehana Munir
Rehana Munir
Hindustan Times
Amber Fort,Chardonnay,Shah Rukh Khan
Unlike the characters of sitcoms, many of us go through bonafide touch-and-go events that do leave an imprint(Photo Imaging: Parth Garg)

Ross Geller experiences a “newfound respect for life” when he believes he’s escaped a shooting in an episode of Friends. In fact, a car had simply backfired, making a mockery of his grand life lesson. Unlike the characters of sitcoms, many of us go through bonafide touch-and-go events that do leave an imprint. I’ve found myself in that terrifying zone at least three times.

Next stop: Eterni

It was a packed train, Borivali (slow) and I’d pushed my way into a second-class compartment at Bandra. A teenage hawker selling hairclips jumped in at Santacruz. The ladies of the damp saris would have none of it. Just before Vile Parle had announced its biscuity self, they were pushing him out of the compartment. In a couple of seconds, I’d somehow been thrown onto the tracks too, in a mad whirl of arms, bags and indignation.

It sometimes takes a real close call for even a hardened existentialist to discover how strong her instinct for survival is

While dozens of women on the train pointed at me and emitted strange exhalations in a chorus of dread, the lithe clip-seller made his escape. I immediately looked to see if a train was approaching, a waste of time in hindsight. I even took a moment to pick up the spilled contents of my bag before clambering onto the platform. As if being black and blue wasn’t enough, I was soon red-faced when a TC caught me ticketless. It must have fallen out of my bag. Fine paid, thoughts collected, auto attained, I was left to ponder what had just happened. All my soul-searching for a deep and lasting impression came to naught, but my young Dahl-loving niece for years insisted on hearing the “tracks-wali story”. I haven’t needed to travel by train in rush-hour traffic in a while, thankfully. But whenever I get the chance, I do still stock up on clips on the train.

Fortress of doom

It was a windy December day at Amber Fort in Jaipur. I had got myself mixed up in a project that involved defence and industry bigwigs flying in to speak to a bunch of hats and stilettos sipping Chardonnay all day, while being entertained by the likes of Shah Rukh Khan. Everyone from swamis with a past to investors with a future was part of the exclusive junket. I’d found myself an unobtrusive spot to work from, behind a makeshift console run by technicians hastily hired on the spot. It was that kind of affair.

In between my furious typing, I heard a deafening crash and a thud. It sounded so close that I dared not turn around immediately – I wasn’t even sure if I was hurt or not, a bewildering out-of-body feeling. Turned out the giant wood and metal truss, supporting a grand art installation, had been bettered by the wind. I realised I’d missed the crash by a few millimetres. A mixture of great relief, along with a sense of surreality, hit me right after. Like I wasn’t really there. It was only after I’d escaped the fort, and stopped at a roadside dhaba that I found some comfort, far from the misbegotten event. Later in the evening, as I was returning from the old market, I encountered SRK’s cavalcade heading for the airport. I wonder if he’s ever felt as lucky as I did that day.

Go, Goa, Gone

Betalbatim’s Sunset Beach is my Goan paradise. On a recent trip, I’d wandered into the water, as per usual. The sky was blue, the coast lined with trees and everything perfect. All of a sudden, something changed. I couldn’t find the bottom of the sea with my feet. Always a cautious, if limited, swimmer, I tried hard to move forward, but found myself making no headway. This was getting strange. And already I’d gulped a few mouthfuls of water.

This wasn’t the time for bravado. I quickly called out to the lifeguard, who mercifully responded. I calmed myself by floating on my back rather than flapping about trying to make progress. The next thing I know, I’m surrounded by the lifeguard on his rescue board, and two lifeguards on jetskis, one from each of the neighbouring beaches, east and west. Meanwhile, the beach patrol had arrived on the coast. Classic Baywatch moment. Back at the shack, I learned about the concept of a rip tide. And how one of the ways to escape it is to swim parallel to the shore. The lifeguards had done a thorough job, but I wonder what a couple more minutes caught in that strange, arresting tide might have caused. The takeway from the experience? It sometimes takes a real close call for even a hardened existentialist to discover how strong her instinct for survival is. That, and lifeguards rock!

From HT Brunch, April 15, 2018

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First Published: Apr 14, 2018 23:20 IST