Posted on March 08 , 2021
Lessons from COVID-19 Part 3
Thank you to all the people who have sent me their good wishes following my Februry 1st and subsequent blogs, which further reaffirms the value of a great family and friend support system. Some have also identified with the lessons I have shared and provided their very welcome comments, for which I am truly appreciative and encouraged. I often share many of these lessons with my students and find myself applying them to some problem that I might be struggling with at that particular time. Today’slesson is especially relevant to the current struggle many of us are facing: stuck at home, wrestling with the monotonous repetition of pandemic isolation. When I was in 8th grade one of my teachers told me “Anything ever learnt is never lost”. In other words she said, take every opportunity to learn anything that comes your way no matter how unlikely it might appear that you will ever need it.
Ever since I have never passed an opportunity to learn anything no matter how weird, and have learnt so many things. And I am convinced that one of them may have actually saved my life.
Lessons – Anything ever learnt is never lost!…..
My watch read two pm as I glanced at it after having just woken up. It was August of 1978 and Keith, my best friend of over thirty years now, was in aisle seat nineteen next to my window seat twenty. We sat on the right side of a Yugoslavian bus travelling from Dubrovnik to Makarska, a small and a very quaint coastal town in Yugoslavia(now Croatia). The accident happened partway into a two month backpacking trip from Tehran to Munich, where I was to buy a car and drive back to Tehran before starting school in September.
“We should be arriving in about 20 minutes or so ..” I said to Keith as I looked up from my watch to the wide panoramic windows of this bus carrying around forty passengers along the curvy road which hugs the Coast of Croatia from Dubrovnik to Split, our final destination in Yugoslavia before entering Bulgaria. It was perhaps one of the most gorgeous scenic views of a jagged and twisting coastline against the background of a calm ocean of a hundred shades of turquoise with the sun shining down bright and shimmering. Yet it was raining on the road that we were traveling with a steep drop into the ocean on the left and various drops into ravines in the mountainside in which the road was carved. I noticed, as I spanned my view from left onto the ocean towards the front of the bus as it started to enter an S curve that the rain made the road slippery and that there were guard rails on both sides of the road. One to protect against the drop into the ocean and the other against the drop into the ravine with huge trees, perhaps pine I am not sure, looming high up towards the road.
As the bus went into the first left hand bend of the S curve and looked staring ahead through the windshield towards the oncoming traffic, the dark color sports car, perhaps a dark shade of green (same as the Humber Scepter was the very first car I ever owned) was travelling rather fast from the other direction. What seemed odd was not the speed of the car but rather its location, it seemed to be on the wrong side of the road. The driver of our bus, seemingly making the same observation, realized the potential danger and swung the bus to the right. We lurched to the right as far as we could before scraping against the guard rail and swinging left again. The driver had already started to brake and though relatively slower than a second or two ago the bus gravitated towards the center of the road again. All the while the sports car kept its pace oblivious to the happenings around it. We were going to crash. Our driver once again swung the bus hard to the right desperate to avoid a head on collision. The force generated by the impact of the car along with the weight of the bus filled to capacity was too much for the guard rail to sustain.
This all happened in the amount of time it took for me to wake up, look at my watch, say a few words to Keith, and raise my head to enjoy the fleeting view. Perhaps all told three seconds…
What followed was even faster. As the rail gave way and the bus started its slide down the slope of the ravine, it looked as if those tall (pine) trees had come alive and all of a sudden were racing towards me. Their bristles became poison bombs and their branches instruments of death. At that instant, I was sure that my time had come. I was about to kick the bucket, so to speak.
I have heard it said that your whole life flashes by just before you are about to die. More accurate would be to say “ … when you are convinced and are certain that you are about to die….”. Sure enough I literally saw myself being born in the Lady Hamilton hospital in Karachi. Of course, I was there, but I wasn’t there to see me being born, and no doubt the flash was a collection of hearsay from my mother and others about that momentous event… I saw myself wimp through elementary and middle schools and after being bullied turn into a mini hood on the streets of the slums and Ghettos of Karachi, only to be rescued by the fateful transfer of my father to Iran, from where I blackmailed my mother into sending me to England and where after discovering my talent or aptitude for Mathematics and Computers, and after getting my ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels going to the University in Southampton to major in Mathematics and discover life and explore all kinds of new activities ….
…. And during this phase of the movie flash there was a clip of one solitary judo class I had taken, in my freshman year at Southampton, thinking it was Karate and I would learn how to kill with the tips of my fingers, such awesome power. Ironically I found it terribly boring at the time and never went back after that very first lesson.
The lesson, basically, consisted of the judo instructor saying that judo is about defense and learning the art of falling. To fall perfectly, you fold your body into a ball and roll with the fall.
As if there was a malfunction of the film projector, the sequence got stuck on this very boring lesson. The boring, yet melodic, words of the instructor turning into a mantra of “fold your body into a ball and roll with the fall”, cycling over and over again like a broken record.
…Next thing I know, in the few seconds it took for the bus to slide down the ravine, turn and capsize, land upside down on its roof thirty to forty feet below the road, I had tucked my head between my knees, folded my body into a ball and rolled with the fall. I finally landed in the fetal position on the bus ceiling, now below me.
Compared to the mayhem that had occurred, as the trees’ limbs crashed through the windows, the bus slammed against the ravine, the people screamed in pain and fear, the ensuing silence as the bus came to rest was deafening. So I raised my head from the fetal position to look up, I felt the broken glass, splattering of blood and desperation, clear evidence of the mayhem that had occurred.
Keith and I, the only two foreigners on the bus carrying thirty nine passengers and crew, survived and walked away unharmed. In all, four people died, one person lost an eye, a couple of people lost limbs and many suffered various injuries. Keith bruised his shoulder and I had nary a scratch.
Some might say that this was a miracle; my mother (bless her soul) said that it was a result of her constant prayers to God to protect me while I was away from home. Both would, perhaps, be examples of the creationism view. Then there are those from the Evolutionist camp who simply believe that everything is a matter of accident and would probably say that Keith and I were simply at the right place at the right time to survive the bus accident. I, because of the reaction to the lesson learnt in the judo class, anything ever learnt is never lost... how true. And Keith, perhaps, because sitting next to me followed suit as I tucked into the defensive survival posture. May be so.
What is of importance is not who was responsible for keeping us safe but how it came about. Most likely it is simply a function of being at the right place at the right time, however I believe that we, as humans, can influence the outcome and increase the probability of the occurrence of a desired outcome.
Therefore, I truly believe life is simple and after having live it fully and after encountering death often, on a personal level, I have come to this conclusion:
I faced difficulties and was determined to over come them
and that made me STRONGER
I faced problems and persisted till I solved them
and that gave me WISDOM
I saw opportunities and used my brain & brawn to worked harder to exploit them
and that gave me Prosperity
I encountered obstacles and dared to hurdle them
that gave me COURAGE
I met others in need and chose to help them
and so I found LOVE
I met others who sought favors and I granted them
and that created OPPORTUNITIES
I wanted nothing and worked for every thing I needed
and thus I have EVERYTHING I want and all that I need
I am content but not satisfied, I feel I have more to give and more to live.
And I expect to live every day to the fullest learning everything that comes my way.
Posted on February 14 , 2021
Lessons from COVID-19 - Part 2
During those two days that I was bedridden in room 238 of Hospital 15 wondering if I was going to live or die, as I described in my Februry 1st...Read More
Posted on March 17 , 2021
Lessons from COVID-19 Part 4
Thank you to all the people who have sent me their good wishes following my February blogs., which further reaffirms the value of a...Read More