yesterday was arguably the darkest day in the history of mithi's school. after dropping off mithi at her bus stop at 6.50 am, anshuman and i were catching up on our forty winks when our neighbour rang the doorbell. the news on the local tv news channel had a byline going that a bus from the school had met with a grisly accident on the highway near Shilaj. it also said that one child had died on the spot.
we tried calling up the school, but the numbers were all busy. thankfully, i had the cellphone nos. of her class teachers of std one and two. their phones were also busy. finally, got through one of them, and learnt it was bus 45 A. our first reaction was a sigh of relief that it wasn't mithi's bus, but close on its heels was anxiety and empathy for those who were on the ill fated bus and their parents. one news flash said that another school bus following the first one, had stopped to help rescue the kids of the first bus. children in the second bus were traumatised by the sight of the blood and the injured children inside the bus. i called up as many other parents as i could, including some of my colleagues whose children are in the same school informing them about the tragedy.
quickly, we left for the school. in the car, we kept calling mithi's classmates' parents, asking whether we should pick up their children too and bring them home with us. on the way, we learnt that the bus was at an intersection on the highway, when a container truck hurtling in its direction rammed headlong onto it. as a result, the bus spun out of control, flipped two-three times, and skidding a little, ground to a halt after it hit a divider in the middle of the road.
to reach the school we had to pass by the accident site. at home, while mum had panicked and anshuman was tense, i had been calm and collected. but, the sight of the bus being picked up by a crane and towed away in front of our eyes was something else. we could see the smashed bus and some water bottles rattling inside. at the site, there was a lot of blood and again a couple of waterbottles strewn about. how does one even express how one felt at the sight?
the press vultures were feasting on the sight. one huge press van had been thoughtlessly parked in the middle of the road, causing a traffic jam. later, we heard that when the first press people reached the spot, they were busy filming the scene instead of helping in the rescue.
at the school, children were in their respective classrooms with class teachers. a lot of parents were already there to pick up their children and take them home. chaos reigned. we picked up mithi and six other kids from different classrooms. the kids in the car chattered innocently about sundry things--in sharp contrast to how we felt. they told us their teachers were crying in the morning when they learnt of the mishap. they asked the children to pray for the children in the ill-fated bus. we were sitting with composed expressions and hearing them out, trying to talk normally and cheerfully.
at home, all the news channels were flashing this news and reporting the tragedy. even in the office afterwards, events of the morning kept gnawing away at my mind. at night i kept staring at her. as such, looking at your child sleeping peacefully, is one of the most moving sights ever as any parent will vouch for. but in light of the day's happenings, your head has mixed thoughts tickering through it.
read about the news this morning, about the little boy who lost his life with a lump in the throat. read about the teachers whose presence of mind in rushing a profusely bleeding, semi conscious child by car to hospital saved his life. heart is still heavy with the grief of the parents who lost their child; with those whose children were in the bus and are in critical condition in hospital, and those whose kids are traumatised by what happened with them. there is anger-- at the bus driver's carelessness, at the school authorities for being slack about safety guidelines, and at the power up there beyond our control.
as i hug my child countless times in the day, can't help thinking of those who can't hug theirs.