Alright here is my first shot at TL;DR answer, something which has been sitting as a draft since ever. Mine wouldn't count exactly as a near death experience. However, I’ll go ahead and call it a near miss from the claws of death…Pfft. Initially, I felt my ND (read Near Death, I think it goes by that acronym) was going to change everything from the way I perceived life to my lifestyle/profession, etc. I did start looking for the deeper meaning in life, tried venturing into philosophy, question existence and what not… but soon it got overwhelming. I guess as time goes by, it really doesn't affect you much and we get distracted with regular day to day activities/work, we forget and get in sync with the monotonous world we live in. Also, humans by nature are lethargic (at least I am) and tend to bounce back to their normal selves. The same happened with me too, was pretty much back to the same Spandana I was.
Coming to my ND experience; this happened back in late May, 2012; around a 3 day long weekend. I was moving from Los Angeles to SF Bay Area due to work and was to start with a new company. Personally & professionally, I was quite thrilled about the way things had shaped up for me. Also, having spent two years in the bay before at Stanford; would say I was looking forward to the move.
My journey started an early/mid-morning on a sort of a rather bright & hot summer day. I was going to drive alone in my hatchback beetle. Had initially thought of asking someone to accompany me, but due to an independency bug I have, I decided to go self-sufficient. I didn’t have any furniture or any large items with me, have always stayed in furnished places, hence had no hassles in packing too. It was just myself and three pieces of luggage I had to drive.
It wasn’t that I was too tired, but was a bit short on sleep. After a quick brunch with my roommates and friends, I was already thinking of postponing my trip...But then, I decided not to procrastinate; maybe that is how things had to take place that eventful day :/
Jumping to the point; I hit the I-5 about mid-noon; a straight 185 miles long, monotonous drive, the way my GPS showed it. I began to yawn at the thought and decided to go as fast as I could…driving at about 90 miles/hr but still at pace with the rest of the traffic. I didn’t see any point in driving slow to stay bored & err safe..(Now, I hope someone from DMV doesn’t read this). I switched to the left-most lane and was through half way on the I-5 journey, say about 100 miles in an hour or two. Soon it got frustrating, and my eyes began to itch for sleep, with nothing much to focus on. My brain numbed; I probably should have taken an exit then but my mind just kept pushing my body’s limits.
I blared up the music, started yelling random stuff and was already talking to myself. Soon was bored with myself too. I was literally looking for distractions to concentrate on the driving part. I craved much sleeping in a cozy warm bed.. just if I had started the next day.. grrr!.. now regretted my decision and the trip.
Next my cell phone buzzed and was actually quite happy to see that it was my mom calling. This could kill some time off the journey!
I dove for the phone but it slipped away to fall at my feet. Out of reflex I reached to grab it (I know that’s lame and a dangerous thing to do, but hey shit happens like that only. In my defense, it happened in a split second and I couldn’t think that fast).
Ahead was what I would describe as the most horrifying moment of my life. The one where all your years of existence questioned you on what’s going to be left of you now?
I lost my grip on the steering wheel my car headed towards the muddy patch of divider separating the I-5 freeways. Now I want to say that I reacted immediately and pressed the brakes as hard as I could. My car screeched and I didn’t see the traffic around anymore due to the heavy dust cloud which sprung up. I could sense my car spinning in circles, my tires burnt against the ground, and made at least a dozen donuts on i-5 & its divider (Next time you pass by this part of the road and see the donuts, you would now know why). I saw my bags shift and topple in my car on the rear view mirror and my GPS fell down too in the same spot my phone fell (I think there was some rather excessive gravity pull in that spot.. But, note I did not reach for it this time). I guess I was a bit lucky that there was wet mud for it had rained the night before, however it still didn’t provide enough friction to hold my car. We (My car and I) crossed the divider and cut into the oncoming traffic from the other way, this was i-5 South Bound now!
I saw some of the huge cargo trucks coming to a sudden halt in front of me, but my car just wouldn’t stop. We crossed lane after lane, knowing this would end as an ugly & painful death for both. There was also nothing I could do, except but pray to dodge the traffic for the car wasn’t in my control, I wished not to hit anyone too, especially any car with a “Baby on board” sign! I have always been a bit low on the pain tolerance level, and a death by accident was the last way I wanted to die, if given a choice of course! I hoped that it should rather be a painless quick death than suffer injuries.
All my brain was able to spit out was “WOW…this is how it really ends”, I was devastated that I would die in this strange country without seeing my family for the last time. To think of it now, life did not really flash in front of me like those movies or maybe it was just me. This was it.. The End…
…… BUT…..eventually my car did stop on the right shoulder of the road. Couple of feet over, I would have been in the trench. I barely made it and managed to open the car door to fall on the ground. I was shaking & shivering uncontrollably, so much that it was actually embarrassing! It took me several moments to realize what was going on, what was to happen and then rejoice that I WAS ALIVE.
I saw a cop come running to me and he actually gave me a hug to make sure I was doing alright. People in the US of A are just so compassionate…Had it been in India, I am pretty sure there would be a slap following.
He muttered something and then went on check if I had hit anyone else or any property (read poles, barricades etc.) Most of the traffic had stopped and a few friendly drivers pulled up on the road’s shoulder behind me. A heavy man came up to me, quite concerned on what had happened. He told me that I was really lucky to have survived, and said that he had witnessed the whole incident. He went on that it was nothing but a Jesus’s miracle; a perfect planned coordination and synchronization of a play to keep me alive. He added that he had to pull up when he saw me heading towards the divider and had been waiting there to watch my car topple or hit someone!
The cop came back in a minute or so. There wasn’t a single car or proper damage that done, I checked myself thoroughly, No wounds at all, just a tiny scratch on my knuckles (must have been the GPS falling on me), but other than that I was completely okay.
He checked my car, no damages on the car either. He did the formalities of teh license and registration checks and then aligned the car to suit the traffic direction. I had to take the closest exit to go on my way. I spent an hour at a gas station next debating what had just happened and tried to digest it all. I did yell at my mom for a bit and hold her responsible for the whole thing, (I was of course, kidding).
I realized I eventually had to resume my journey; and though a lot nervous, I wasn’t afraid to drive the same day. I had been extremely fortunate to have survived and no logic/probability can justify this. Someone somewhere had been praying for my safety and well-being. I guess I had it in my destiny to survive.
It took me the next couple of weeks to grow out of my imaginary what-if-it-happened-here scenarios on road. Nevertheless, I made peace with myself, I had to live and perhaps it was a force which saved me or perhaps not. I don’t consider myself too religious, however very spiritual and felt I should find ways to connecting myself to the divine force in my second shot at life. Though I used to regularly visit temple before, I sense a stronger bond now.
I don’t know if it is a good thing or a bad thing, but I started acknowledging death consciously or see it a real thing than a virtual distant surreal event. In my 24 years of life, I never gave much thought on the whole life vs death vs after-life debate, and that changed. Though I didn’t change much as a person, I feel like this one-minute fly sometimes as a conclusion. Also, I am somehow afraid of planning life too far ahead now, and no longer invest on a 401K plan but went with a good life insurance plan instead :P (Don’t you laugh!)
I realized that everyone’s time in the world is limited and it’s no use of planning your life to be perfect. You just have to be a good person and not take life too seriously! And of course be extremely careful in the future when driving.