By Ahmet Abdulaziz ….
The year was perhaps 1961 or 1962. I was in primary school. We were living in Karachi, Pakistan.
Our school was quite a distance from our house, so I was using the school van, which was picking me up in the morning from our house and dropping me back after school finished. It was a small van, which could accommodate perhaps 10 children plus 2 teachers and one driver. I remember the colour of our school van was green.
Karachi at that time was going through a phase of expansion, and new plotting had been done in areas just out of the city. The area of Hydari Chowk, which now is one of the busiest areas and shopping centres of the city, used to be a very far away place, where one could find one or two houses in an area of say 2 – 3 kilometers. The roads were not properly made up, and there was no electricity in the area. It was a far-flung area with very few houses.
One of the students of our school used to live in that area, so every day the van used to drop him at his house. For all of us, it was nothing more than a free long drive, which we all enjoyed.
One day, around midday, when we were enjoying our ride in that remote area, the driver stopped the van abruptly on the side of the road. There was an accident. In those days, there were not many cars in that area. There was not even a bus service.
Someone had perhaps selected the area to learn to drive a car. As we looked out of our van, a car had badly hit a pole or maybe a tree, which I do not remember now. The door of the car was open and the body of the driver was half inside and half out of the door. The other fellow in the car had perhaps hit his head on the windshield. Both the persons were unconscious and bleeding.
In those days there were no mobile telephones to call for an ambulance or help. In fact there were not even telephones in that area. So as an emergency, our driver took all of us out of the van, and he picked up the two unconscious injured persons and put them on the floor of our van.
Along with our teachers, we had all vacated the van. The driver hurriedly took the injured persons away to the hospital, which was maybe at the distance of over 15 or 20 kilometers. So we all sat by the road along with our teachers and waited for the return of the van.
Curiously, we were all very eager to see the damaged car, but our teachers had told us not to look at the car, as there was blood everywhere. But of course, there was no way out but to see the blood. That was the first time, I had ever seen an accident and human blood and injured people.
Our van returned after about an hour, and we got back on board. There were bloodstains here and there on the seats and on the floor of the van. We reached home late that day.
For me, it was an unforgettable incident. I remember innumerable times I had narrated the incident at home and to other friends, even when I had grown up. It was an incident, which I could not forget, and is still fresh in my memory.
Very recently, I came across a fellow on Facebook, who had a direct connection with the above incident.
There is a group named “OLD KARACHI”, on Facebook, where people from my generation, and the new generation, frequently discuss the old memories of the city. The members of the group usually share old photographs of Karachi city, and then the members share their memories regarding that particular area or building or shop, by way of comments.
One day someone posted an old and a new photograph of Hyderi Chowk. Many members commented on that. I wrote about the above incident as my memory about that area.
In response to my comment, a fellow of my age commented back and told me that he is the son of the man who had got injured in that particular accident. He told me that his father had gone out in the car of a family friend, to learn to drive in the remote area where there was no traffic, but unfortunately, they had hit a tree and had been injured. The friend of his father had died in that accident.
I had never known what had happened to those two injured persons who were taken to the hospital in our van. By coming into contact with this gentleman, the last link of the story was found. One of them had survived and the other one had died. This is what I had always wondered over the last 57 years. The story had remained without an end in my memory. It took 57 years to complete the narration of that particular incident.
His father had survived but had died by the end of the last century.
So we talked on the telephone and became friends. I had planned that during my next visit to Pakistan, I would be meet him. I had planned in my mind to go back to the same place once again with him, to see and find the exact spot, where the accident had taken place, and where all of the students of the primary school had waited with our teachers for the return of our school van.
But just now I found another small twist in the story. I found a notice shared by some member of the group, that my new friend had died of a heart attack.
Thus during my next visit to Karachi, I would not be able to find the same spot where the accident had taken place. My desire to re-live an unforgettable incident of my life after 57 or 58 years thus would not materialise. Well, this is life, and it goes on just like that.