Sunday, August 24, 2008


I had a scooter accident the other day, while driving down NS Road.

It's a very busy road. It was nighttime, and I was being cautious.

Suddenly a man on a motorcycle, who WAS going too fast, sideswiped me on the right side. Next thing I knew, I was skidding down the street on my side, while he skidded into two other vehicles and knocked them down, too. A woman screamed as a two-wheeler skidded into her bicycle.

I got up right away, and picked my right ankle bracelet up off the street. The man driving the motorcycle too fast got up, too. The other two vehicles took longer.

Some men standing nearby righted my scooter and turned it off. They made gestures asking if I was OK.

"OK," I said, looking at my bloody ankle, feeling my elbow throb and watching the blood seep through the knee of my baggy salwaar pants.

I didn't know what to do, so I stood there and waited.

At some point, everyone got up and drove off. I got on the scooter and tried to push its side view mirror into place. Then I turned the key; it started. The right brake was half broken, but it seemed to work. Since everyone else was gone, I left too.

After driving a block I pulled over and considered my options. A woman pulled up next to me and asked if I was OK. She told me she'd been in two accidents in the past week, and pointed towards her broken left brake. I showed her my wounds, and she told me to go to a hospital.

First, I stopped at Shiva Prasad and got some set dosas to go - a half set (ie; two) for dinner in my room, and a full set (four) for the next day's train ride to Bangalore. As I waited, I watched the ankle bleed and turn blue and purple. No one asked about the bloody pants or the red jacket, half of which was black with dirt.

Afterwards I headed to the hospital behind the Kaveri Lodge (where I was treated for a major gastronomic problem and had the nose pierced in 2002). No one was at the reception desk. By now the wounds had begun to sting, and the head didn't feel all that great, either. So I sat down. I waited. I called Ammu, who was in Bangalore, and asked him what to do. He offered to send a car to take me to Apollo, the big fancy western-style hospital. I said I'd wait, and asked him to ask his brothers to round up some ice for me.

Finally I got tired of waiting and walked out. An older gentleman who was waiting outside gestured that I should go back in. He rounded someone up, who told me "just five minutes."

After some waiting, I was on the same examining table I'd been on back in 2002. A grubby white curtain decorated with illustrations of Tom chasing Jerry with a hatchet separated the examining room from the office.

I told the nurse nothing was broken. Suddenly, four women surrounded me. They wanted to know what happened. When I said "scooter accident," they all became very concerned. One of them wanted to know if I had any country coins (it never fails).

"Where is other ankle bracelet?" one of the asked with concern as she pointed towards the wounded ankle.

"In pocket," I replied. She seemed relieved.

The youngest woman began to clean the wounds, using what looked like used cotton balls at the end of some tongs; the cotton balls were shriveled and grayish.

"Are those new?" I kept asking, pointing towards the cotton balls. "Not us-ed?"
"Yes Madam," she kept answering.

First she applied rubbing alcohol (?), then iodine to the three main wounds (ankle, elbow and knee). Then she put gauze on top and secured it with tape.

"Injection," said an older woman, raising a needle.

"What?" I asked.

"Injection, injection."

"Where?" I asked. "Backside?"

Sure enough, they wanted me to turn over onto my stomach.

"What for?" I asked.

"So not septic. Infection"

OK. I turned over, and got stabbed in the backside.

I was so out-of-it I didn't even notice (or ask) if the needle was new.

When I'd put my pants back on, I reached for my bag and asked "Estu?" or how much.

"Give me 60 rupees," said the older woman. I handed her the equivalent of $1.50, and she gave me a prescription for ointment and some pills.

When I was leaving the hospital I was met by Dungar (Ammu's employee; his name means "hill") in the waiting room. He was holding a bag of ice.

He accompanied me across the street the the pharmacy, where Vinod's wife filled the prescription. Turns out the pills were for pain. They gave me 10. Total: rs 98, or just over $2.

Dungar inspected the scooter, saw that it was drivable, and told me that "Ammu's mommy wants to see you."

So I drove over to their place.

He led me up the stairs.

Ammu's mother asked me if I wanted anything and made me lay down on the couch. Another couple was there, possibly because a relative recently expired.

I lay on the couch, icing my leg. One by one, people came in and asked me what happened. Between my limited Kannada and their limited English (and many, many gestures), we pieced together the story.

After some time, Ammu's mother brought out some food and insisted that I eat. I ate. It was wonderful.

And the heart melted, as I missed my own long-gone mother and how she used to tend to me after my many bicycle crashes. And I thought about how everyone here always asks me if I'm married and tells me I should marry and have at least one child so that there is someone to take care of me when I get old.

And I thought about the ideas of "I, me and mine" that we're trying to get away from in yoga, and how at that moment Ammu's mother was not just his mother but my mother and everyone's mother, and I was beyond grateful. She was so welcoming and kind.... To be taken care of that sweetly, without reservation, so far from home... it is the greatest gift (and example of yoga in action). In some ways I felt like I learned more from her in 90 minutes than in a month at the shala.

Everyone told me to take rest the following day. When I got back to the hotel, they told me the same thing; take rest for one or two days. I gave up on the idea of yoga at 4:45 AM, but still hoped to make the 6:45 train to Bangalore. I awakened at 5 with a throbbing head and said "No way" and texted my friends and fell back to sleep.

I awakened just after 8 with a throbbing head, and called down for chai. The buzzer rang and it was Ammu, who'd driven all the way from Bangalore and was bearing flowers. "I'm OK," I kept saying. He sent the boy out to get some dosas for breakfast, and we made a plan to take the AC bus to Bangalore. The head hurt and I was exhausted BUT I was still under the impression that all was well.... Then QE called from Bangalore and said to stay put; they would come to Mysore the next day. What a relief.

I spent the day in bed, watching TV, catching up with Jammu in Delhi (her baby's visa finally came through! Now she just has to find a flight home). Early in the day Dungar came by to pick up the scooter and drop it by the repair shop. He went to the tailor and picked up my clothes. He brought ice and homemade lunch from Ammu's mother. And he even brought a DVD of the hit Bollywood film "Dhoom," and offered to bring anything else I needed.

Also in the morning the hotel's day manager appeared at the door and asked what happened. He too was very concerned.

I called Dreyfus to tell him what happened, and asked him to research tetanus shots since my last one was probably in 2002. We decided it was wise to get another one, considering the severity of the wounds, the dirt in the street, and the fact that it had been over five years ago. So I walked back to the hospital and asked for a tetanus shot. "Last night you had," they told me. I asked several people and they all said the same thing: "You had." I gave the woman who'd asked some country coins, visited the pharmacy, and went back to bed.

As the day wore on, the headache got worse. It was on the right side of the head, same as the wounds (the injection spot on the buttock also began to throb, although it was on the left side).

When I awakened on Saturday morning, the headache had moved to the left side of the head and was just as severe. Since friends were coming from Bangalore, I took a sinus pill (after doing the neti pot of course). After chai and a bath, I took the newly-repaired scooter to the hospital. It was 9:30. One employee was there, and it took some time for the sweeper to dig her up.

"Wound dressing," I explained, pointing.

Slowly she dressed the wound, using the same tongs and small grey cotton balls, and securing the gauze with white tape.

"How much?" I asked, after putting on my pants, waiting in the lobby for awhile and then finally having the sweeper dig her up.

She thought for a minute.

"Fifty rupees," she said.

"No," I said.

She looked at me.

"No," I said more strongly. "Ela!" I added, using the Kannada word for no.

She looked at me.

"Dressing on Thursday plus injection was 60 rupees only. Fifty for dressing is too much."

She thought for a minute.

"Forty," she said, with finality. "Injection was 20 rupees."

I argued a bit more: How can a tetanus shot cost twice as much as some gauze? And then I thought, Who cares?

I gave her the Rs 40 (about $1). She put it right into her pocket.

I love my (your, our, everyone's) India.

Feeling revived by Chow Chow Bath at Shiva Prasad, I met my friends at the tony Hotel Metropole.

We had chai on the porch. Despite the headache and my poor directions, we ate lunch at the Lalitha Mahal palace and shopped at KR Circle. We had fresh lime soda on their balcony, where we also had dosas in parcel (ie to go) from Shiva Prasad.

By the time I got home, each and every wound was throbbing at full volume.

As I put the scooter away, I noticed that one of the hotel employees was limping.

"What happened?" I asked.

"Accident," he said.

Apparently he too had a two wheeler accident. His happened on Friday, and he had huge gouge in his shin - far more serious than my scrapes and bruises. He too had been give painkillers and a shot in the backside. When I said "Backside nawoo!" (pain) he laughed.

When I finally fell into bed, I felt like I was falling ill.

I had a fever (although I'm not sure how bad it was because it's a Centigrade thermometer). Each wound stung and throbbed more and more. The knee joint hurt. The pain kept increasing. I could not sleep.

So I took a pain killer and some Acetemenophin. I texted K: I wouldn't be at led primary series class in the morning; there was no way I could do lotus, let alone drag the poor feverish body through a full class without distracting everyone in it.

And I thought, "Maybe this is a sign not to extend my trip." There was despondence. There was disillusion. And there was a fervent desire to see one's kind compassionate teachers back in the states.

Next day the pain in the head was gone. In fact nothing throbbed, and one felt high as a kite despite black circles under the eyes.

One felt so good in fact that she picked up a jasmine garland at the market before heading to the Metropole for breakfast with the dear friends from Bangalore. QE and I put the jasmine in our hair, and after a wonderful breakfast drank lime soda on the balcony while the baby slept. Then we went to the palace, where we were swarmed by touts, vendors and beggars and I said, over and over, "Beda!" (Don't want), "Du Dee La ("No money!") and "Wo Ga Pa / Ma" (Go away!) - the last two are compliments of Krista.

Afterwards we had lunch at the Southern Star - which has one of the few "baby chairs" (high chairs) in Mysore.

Then they began the long drive back to Bangalore while I went to conference - where Sharath talked about the yamas and niyamas (ethical roots of yoga), told some stories about TVS Krishnamacharya and revealed that he's read some of the Internet commentary about the new authorization rules.

More details tomorrow.


The accident photos are not very impressive, but they're all I could get before the camera battery ran out.


  1. you poor thing...I know all about being sick in india...I got salmonella in cochin a few days before I was to leave india...I had to get back to friends there took me to a hospital for a "drip" the day I left india...flew for 18 hours sicker than an indian street dog....

    take care, cara, be safe

  2. This just goes to show how important it is to read your blog more often than once a week in case something cool like this happens! I'm glad you're on the mend.