On highway…that night…nothing happened!!
10.30 pm…Sometime back in 2016…
I had been to visit an old friend from college. So engrossed in catching up with her I was that I did not realize it was getting late. Though I prefer not to stay outdoors after 9pm, that day it was past 10 already.
I think I should take few minutes to describe the highway I have to cross and the situation in general. Surrounding of this highway is a pretty deserted. There are no hotels, no petrol pumps on roadside. At the hour I left this highway is crowded by heavy commercial vehicles commuting at night. Well I had newly learnt to ride a bike and to add to it even the road was unfamiliar to me.
Somewhere in the middle of highway, my bike started getting wobbly all of a sudden and no longer was under control. All I could think of was getting it to roadside somehow. I did so without an indicator only to have a truck driver barking at me. I could have got hit for god’s sake for changing a lane recklessly. But I had no option. So I parked the bike at roadside, it was so dark that I was barely visible from road standing in a thorny grass with my bike. I wondered if there would be dangerous reptiles in the grass! For many moments I stood besides my bike just like that… thinking what might have happened to bike and what should I do now. After what seemed to be an infinite time it occurred to my mind to check if my bike is punctured! I am not the one to blame for taking so much time to reach to such basic conclusion! I had just learnt to ride a bike! New to bikes, new to roads, new to brand new bike’s malfunctioning, new to such situations!
So I am alone on a highway with a flat tire… on highway where there is no one and nothing in site except for large vehicles and few mopeds passing by. I did not know what do, I tried pushing my bike a little and go in search of a mechanic but with flat tire my bike was too heavy to push. It was coal dark by now. You will think there is much one can do in such a situation…but I had assessed every option and surprisingly there was very less I was able to do at that hour. I had started getting scared with the deepening dark. What was I going to do…push my bike on highway to some mechanics shop if there is any and still open…. or leave my bike there and look for other transport to go home… when I knew there was no other transport available in that area… or may be call some friend and wait at the side of road till they come. But my friends are not in town, there is almost no one I can think of calling. What should I do? For no reason I thought of Bella from Twilight when she was cornered by bad guys. Her options are impossible, like fighting them with her fragile physique! I think even mine were impractical, impossible.
Well, I am still on the side of highway, I get stares from few passerby, I try to act cool. There is one guy on bike who comes to me and tell there is a mechanic’s shop 3 kilometers from there. I thank him when he leaves. But how do I get my incredibly heavy bike to mechanic’s shop at 3 kilometer. 10 minutes have passed since the guy left, I have not yet decided what to do.
Then an another man comes to me in on bike, I am scared of him…he is a stranger! He must be in his thirties. He looks a little poor with a very old bike and worn out clothes! He asks me what has happened, I expect him to tell me that there is mechanics shop three kilometers away and leave. He tells me there is mechanics shop three kilometers away, but he does not leave. He seems to want to help me further. He knows I cannot push my bike for three kilometers. And it has got so late that it is not safe for me to stand on the side of highway alone while he brings the mechanic. So I decide to go along with him, we find a mechanic shop. I can tell mechanic is drunk and so are his friends. I am more afraid of the mechanic now! We bring him along on stranger’s bike, he removes the flat tire, we go back to his shop. Mechanic removes a long nail from a tire. The nail has ruined the tube, it is not a normal puncture, we need new tube otherwise bike wont run, he says…It is almost midnight by now. I have reached the state beyond scared. I am terrified and I am holding my breathe back as long as I can.
So the stranger says, he will get one. Now I don’t trust the stranger to go with him on tube search but I distrust mechanic and his friends even more to stay back at shop. I have to choose between two dangerous options. So I decide to go with the stranger. I marvel at my increasingly reckless choices. Almost all automotive shops are closed by now, after a long search we find one that is not. Luckily we find the tube…So the stranger , me and the mechanic ride back to where my bike is parked. The flat tire is replaced! The stranger has dropped mechanic back at the shop. I don’t know how to thank stranger. I just say ‘thank you’ to him. I really have no idea what would have happened if not for him.
This is a really small incident , may be not even worth telling but given that I live in India a lot could have happened on the highway that night. I could not imagine why he wanted to help a girl on the side of highway who was barely visible in the dark. I wonder, what made him go extra mile rather than just informing me where the mechanic shop was, the way the other boy did. What made him ride through lanes in search of spare tube. I don’t know. He was a common man with no means of power. A person whom you cant even find easily on social media or internet. I still wonder why did he help me at that godforsaken hour instead of going home. He could have ignored me the way others did.
Nothing happened that night but my way of thinking got changed incredibly! I had always believed that one should help oneself. I had always hated beggars who did not have any physical disability. I was always unable to think of any reason that they had to beg! I sometimes had taken people asking for small help not very seriously merely because I thought they should help themselves! Or may be because I held them responsible for landing up in a situation where they needed help at first place. But that day my thinking changed. It is not always possible for people to help themselves for uncountable reasons. Some of the reasons that you can not imagine. The stranger did not think that the frail looking girl in the dark can call any of her friends for help , it is just 11.30 at night! Because he didn’t know but I knew that I was new in locality with almost no friends around.
Back then I did not know how to thank the stranger. But now I know… I help people, whenever I can, in small things, in big troubles sometimes…I try to support people emotionally, financially… I help whenever I can! Going beyond my ways to help people is my way of thanking that stranger. The incident restored my faith in the good that is in the world! Though the incident off course never appeared in newspapers, nor the stranger was rewarded for what he did. He got nothing in return as I thought paying him in money would be an insult to him. He got nothing out of the whole episode. He just got home very late that night.
Insignificant stranger, Insignificant girl, insignificant situation…But it was for him… that on the highway… that night… nothing significant happened!