It was close to midnight on Wednesday, 10-Apr-2019, and I was driving and with my wife Meera and daughter Anjali. We were on the deserted Dharapuram-Erode highway, and there were only a few random vehicles passing that night. Anjali was fast asleep in the rear seat. Meera and I were chatting about the many amazing things that happened in our OOTYULTRA marathon on the 7-Ap-2019. The villages that we were crossing were almost asleep, and that stretch of the highway was very dark. The car was silent except for some light music and engine noise. Suddenly, Meera screamed and said “Kannan, stop.. stop… stop turn the car, turn the car!”
I had a short jolt by her sudden reaction and asked her what happened.
“I saw a man lying down on the road.”
I thought I had seen a bag of clothes lying on the road… Should I ignore this call or should I go back?
EARLIER THAT DAY
That Wednesday was one of the longest days and our day started in Ooty early in the morning. We had met few officials and our partners to thank them for their support for the OOTYULTRA marathon. Also, we drove 8 long hours, making a short stop in Coimbatore to reach Dharapuram and meet our OOTYULTRA HAM radio partner and dinner with our volunteers. We had plans to stay that night in a hotel in Erode to get some rest.
Meera and I were exhausted, tired and wanted to get to the hotel for some good sleep.
BACK TO THE DHARAPURAM ROAD
“I saw a man lying down on the road”, this time Meera’s scream was much louder.
A little while ago I remembered and thought that I had crossed a bag full of clothes lying on the road and also swayed the car away from it to avoid running over it. I was pretty sure that what I saw was a bag of clothes, but Meera’s scream was about seeing a man there. For a moment, I went blank and did not know how to react.
The only thing in my mind was commonly heard stories of highway ambushes and robberies I read on the news and I was certainly not ready to face any of those nasty things on that night.
Taking a deep breath I said: “Meera, I don’t think we should worry. It was probably a cloth bag or some garbage, I’m not stopping the car in the middle of nowhere, it could be risky.”
Meera was not ready to listen, and she was continuously screaming “STOP THE CAR, I’M VERY SURE I SAW A MAN LYING THERE AND HE MIGHT BE RUN OVER BY A TRUCK, LET US GO HELP HIM OR GET SOME HELP.”
By this time we easily went at least a kilometre past the “man”.
Meera was holding my left arm and gripping it firmly and appeared to be very convincing. I had decided to go back and applied the brakes carefully and preparing ourselves to face the unknown. I was not feeling very comfortable about that situation.
THE CONFUSING MOMENT
Although I was sure it was just a bag of clothes, Meera vehemently insisted that it was a man and he was threatened to be run over. I decided to go and check and dropped the clutch to get there as fast as possible.
While this was happening, I could see Meera was talking to herself, praying for the man’s life and safety.
My mind was chaotic and at the same time in a state of disbelief. “HOW COULD I HAVE MISSED A MAN LYING ON THE ROAD”. I consider myself to be extremely alert all the times while driving, especially when I’m with the family.
What would happen to us if this was a highway robbery attempt and we were running into a trap completely unawares?
I was clueless about how to deal with a situation like such. Neither was I decent fighter nor did I have any kind of weapon on me. I could make an attempt to possibly escape the scene, but I also happened to have my wife and daughter with me. How would I protect them in case if this was really an ambush? I had hundreds of other questions too…
What if that man was already dead?
What if that man was already battling for his life?
Every moment felt vital at that time.
THE BIG REALIZATION THAT “IT WASN’T A BAG”
I checked the rear-view mirror and did not find vehicles behind us. The road ahead us was also empty, and we were in a pitch dark surroundings. I stopped the car and went took a U-turn to the other side of the road where the man was lying.
What if it was really a man and he was already injured?
Our car was silently approaching the spot and in a short while, my car’s headlight started falling on the large white object lying on the right side of the road. I slowly and carefully steered the car to the extreme right and then to the shoulder.
“THAT IS A MAN LYING THERE,” both of us were telling it loudly almost at the same time.
The quick assessment of the scene confirmed that he did not appear to have hit by anyone. Nevertheless, the sight of the man dressed in white lying on the road was terrifying. Half his body was sticking on the highway shoulder his other half was on the un-asphalted mud surface. His head was facing the middle of the road with his left hand stretched out, and his right hand was hanging on to the right side of his body.
I felt remorseful and sweaty when I realised that I was very wrong and that there was really a man lying on the road.
The scene did not appear dangerous. Even if this was some kind of twisted set-up, it was both reassuring and scary that the man was completely unmoved even a few minutes after we passed.
I turned on the hazard blinkers, brought the car to a complete halt right before him, keeping the engine running on. I looked around our vehicle again to see if anyone else was around us before getting down to examine him.
When I left the car, Meera immediately locked the doors and jumped to the driver seat to ensure a quick escape from the scene if necessary. She also started recording that moment on my phone. She later told me how intensely concerned she was for both me and that man while these events occurred.
I stepped out of the car and quickly observed that we were completely alone. There were no houses or shops nearby and I slowly became confident that this place was safe. I also started to think that this man was likely a drunkard lying there, considering he appeared completely unhurt (this would’ve made this situation pretty hilariously trivial).
WAS HE ALIVE?
I approached the man carefully and started firmly tapping his shoulder and loudly calling “Ayya…Ayya… Ayya”. He was motionless, unresponsive and unhurt. He didn’t smell of alcohol either.
Within a few taps, something magical happened. This man slowly tilted his head towards me instantly bringing me a warm sense of happiness. This man was alive!
Without wasting any time, I held his right hand firmly and dragged him off the road. He appeared to be disoriented and mumbling something. I pulled him a bit further into the dirt on the side of the road. After setting him in place, the man simply sat there, completely confused and off-balance.
I asked him why he was lying there and where he belonged. He responded in a faint voice that he was going back to his home from work, very exhausted, and supposedly fell asleep while walking and crumbled down on the road. He had no idea how long he was lying there.
I asked him if I should call for any help. His immediately refused and thanked me and also said, “நான் எழுந்துட்டேன், என் வீடு பக்கத்துல தான் இருக்கு, நான் நடந்து போய்டுறேன் “ (I got up now, my house is nearby and I’ll walk down) in Tamil. I asked him if we wanted anything to eat or drink and whether he wanted some money to go home, but good-naturedly he refused to accept any of them. He pulled himself and stood up getting ready to walk down to his house.
This man had a few hours of a solid “who dares wins” nap on one of the most dangerous places on Earth. He risked his life and thankfully survived the experience without a scratch.
Knowing that this man was OK, I decided to get back to the car and continue our journey.
I didn’t have any capacity at that time to offer him a ride or take him to his house, keeping in mind that I was accompanied by my wife and daughter. I was still tense from our experience and yet very satisfied that we found the opportunity to save this person from danger.
When I returned to the car, Meera was nearly in tears, and we both hugged each other. However, we were genuinely satisfied with helping this stranger on the road.
WATCH THOSE CHILLING MOMENTS RECORDED BY MEERA
AN ACT OF HEROISM OR STUPIDITY?
While the story may portray us as heroic, I still maintain that our action of going back to check on this guy and getting out of the car at that time and location was quite considerably inane. If I was alone on that day, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed the man, let alone leave the car to try and help him.
An act of stupidity, it may sound, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to stop and get down if the man was not found to have been in the same place even after 5-6 mins of us going and returning back. In retrospect, yes, it was a risky step taken to help this person with but at that juncture, we were influenced by emotions and driven by unexplainable forces to go and help that person at that moment.
MY PROUDEST MOMENT
Meera’s empathy, alertness, and convicting intuition moved me to change my suspicion/presumptions (of believing it was a bag of clothes) and take a risk to help this man.
It was truly a result of the person’s good fate that Meera noticed him. Without her act of kindness, the man and our lives would have continued very differently and my experience added another reason to convince me that “wives are always right” 🙂
I’m proud to say that this man is alive today solely because of my alert and caring wife.
This turned out to be another eventful evening in our life. Read about the first one here (https://www.kaysfitacademy.com/2016/04/what-an-eventful-evening-it-was/)
Created: Coach Kay, Edited: Aditya Kannan