A Punjabi gentleman by the name of Daljit was driving us the three and a half hours back to Delhi where we’d booked a hotel before getting the early morning flight home. I have a ear of driving at night. I think that the darkness is an open mouth that will at some point swallow the car. Snap. It’s what death in a car crash would feel like.
We leave The Neemrana fort at 4pm. It should take us three and a half hours of the remaining daylight. After a half hour we pass a car crash, the family are still in the car, and a few others have stopped to help. There are no police except for in the cities, there are no traffic lights either. I don’t see one police car in the entire journey. There’s no AA no RAC and no telephones on the roadside. Half the cars have no wing mirrors and rely on beeping the horn to let each other know they are there. Within an hour we’re stuck in a traffic jam. Darkness slid across the sky like a sniper, like a bad omen. We are in the night in the middle of a torrential downpour on the mane carraigeway from Rajasthan to Delhi. I bury my head in a book as we swerve past an assortment of crashes.
Finally we arrive at the hotel ten minutes from the airport. As I got out of the car I stood into a deep muddy puddle. It had been raining for three hours non stop. We had driven through my worst fears: torrential rain and darkness. Within seconds of getting out of the car. A screech quick like a boxers jab punched the air. Daljit the driver of our car saw it all. Oh god” he said and then as another car ran over the body “oh god”. It seemed to me at first that nothing had happened. I squinted to my eyes to see through the rain. And there revealed in the middle of the road a sikh gentleman with a red umbrella was directing traffic away from the body. I looked down by his feet and saw what he was protecting – a man whose legs were behind his head and body twisted impossibly on the ground.
As we get back in the car to find an ATM machine and return to the hotel Daljit tells us the story of his fathers death four years earlier. He too was crossing a road. He too was run over and died four hours later. Such deaths are everyday life here. Daljit drove quietly on.