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So many reasons for being grateful!

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Desh Bir
The other day I had to visit Amritsar Airport to collect our son returning from Bangalore. I was supposed to be there by 9:20 a.m. and the distance to be covered was around 130 kilometers. Earlier experience showed that the running time for the car should be around 2 hours and 20 minutes. I was glad to find that my town had no morning fog. Feeling very confident about the ease with which I could drive, I left home at 7 a.m.
However, my comfort level got a jolt when I had just pulled out of the periphery of my town. There was a thick and impregnable blanket of fog on the road. The visibility span was not more than 10 meters at the most. All my self-assuredness received a back seat and now it was simply a question of reaching the destination safely, whatever time it might take.
Time and again I followed the red hind-lights of some heavy vehicle in order to stay safe at a respectable distance which could allow time to apply brakes if needed. There were many occasions when the willow of dense fog would render me almost blind to the things even two meters away. I would be filled with an unknown fear of the situation next moment and yet it turned out to be safe each time. Thank God, I kept receiving quite a few such vehicles to lead me at a generously good speed in spite of a very hostile envelop of fog all the way till it was 8:30 a.m.
I found myself very happy and grateful to my unknown helpers on the way when I reached the destination only two minutes after the landing of the plane. It was bright and sunny by then. Everything seemed so smooth and timely. After a few minutes I went into the car-boarding zone, collected my son and drove out.
While driving back, I had forgotten to switch off the Google Maps Application on the cell phone. It started guiding and redirecting us endlessly to take a U-turn from every next crossing. Meanwhile I thought of reaching an area of lean traffic where I could set the chattering App right.
Ten kilometers had gone by when I found the road clear. I turned the vehicles to the extreme left and slowly brought it to a halt. There was no vehicle even at the back. It had been hardly one minute when our vehicle received a banging push from behind along with the loud noise of the falling apart of shattered glass.
We were at a loss to make out what had gone wrong. On coming out in a hurry, we discovered that an auto-rickshaw had run into the right posterior of our SUV. The front glass of the auto rickshaw had fallen into a thousand pieces on the road. Our tailgate had been disfigured and pushed in. The backlights on the right of the car had been shattered and pulled out of their socket. The lanky 20-year boy driving the auto rickshaw came forward with folded hands saying that it was his mistake and he should be pardoned. He also acted as if his shins had been hit.
Some on-lookers came around and blamed the boy and consoled us that nothing much had happened. I broadly tried to assess the damage to the vehicle and found that it was very much in a position to drive on and on. Simply the tailgate would not open and would need to be replaced. The boy was pleading guilty and wanted to be excused. We told him to feel at ease and be careful in future. Obviously, he was poor and in tatters, but surely also oblivious of his surroundings while driving because he was drugged, too. But this was no time for me to sermonize.
Thank God, our car had no issues except an ugly posterior. Thank God, the boy who ran into us was not carrying any passengers who could have been hit badly by the impact. Thank God, the front glass of his vehicle had not flung on to his throat! Thank God, his head had not banged into the vertical bars of his vehicle! Any of these things could have scripted a much bigger damage to life! Last of all, thank God, we were also driving onward, safe from any kind of hurt. So many reasons to be grateful!
(The author is a Retired Principal at Government College, Hoshiarpur , Punjab)

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