Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Last train to Berlin

Since my early childhood days I have been wondering why I am I so accident-prone. My mother thinks it’s because I am simply clumsy, but I know deep down that it is a misfortune. There is virtually no part of my limbs that has not been bruised at least once. And the places and incidents through which these wounds were acquired vary a great deal from each other. From getting stuck in train and elevator doors, tripping over hurdles in 100 meters race, standing in a falling lift and bumping into moving vehicles (rickshaws and motorcycles), I have been there and done that without any fatal damage (unintentionally of course).

However, the accidents I remember most vividly are the ones that have left no physical mark. I haven’t forgotten them because either they were very funny or else embarrassing. Sometimes I am forced to ask – why me?
Some eight years back, my mathematics tutor came to teach me. The day was unusual because I had done my homework for a change. But I had to go to the toilet first. And the next thing I knew I was locked. The bathroom was located in the room which was not being used by anyone so it took my tutor some forty five minutes to get alarmed. Every effort done by my family to open the door failed. I was rescued some two hours later by two locksmiths.
It was one of the few occasions when I did not have a book with me, so I used the time for reflection. A few years later, my younger sister was locked in the same bathroom -- just like Ted Kennedy was forced to reflect on the “Kennedy curse” once, I actually paused to wonder if the accident curse runs in the family.
Cycles and I have had a close bond for ever now. I learnt to ride a cycle very swiftly but it had two extra wheels to prevent me from falling. This might be why I kept losing balance once I bought a new cycle from the Quetta Duty Free Shop. I risked being run over by a neighbour’s car once when I was nine and he was reversing.
It wasn’t this harmless some ten years later, when I rode a bicycle in a university town of US. The bicycles in the US don’t have breaks; you just have to peddle backwards. While going downhill right into a traffic intersection, both my reflexes and my feeble attempt to land on a piece of grass failed and I landed directly on the pavement, with full force, while both my slippers flew across the road (my friend later got them for me). This accident gave me another chance for reflection -- this time to review the American healthcare system. It is expensive and unless you are clearly dying, the doctor takes several hours to reach you. A Pakistani and British friend sat there with me and gossiped about the town, while we waited for the doctors. But they genuinely try to save you from death (or suing them later) in every way possible.
In Amsterdam this year, I was able to overcome any residual anxiety pertaining to bicycles and took a guided bicycle tour across the city. Other than bumping into boards (which caused some giggles), losing my balance every now and then and getting stuck on the railway lines once, everything went well.
This was possibly the first foreign city where I didn’t have to face a mishap. Until I reached the train station and realised I had missed the last train to Berlin.

This article was first published in the News on Sunday

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