Sunday, October 10, 2004

The Taxi Story.

Well, now that I've spilled the beans to Masud, I can tell my scary taxi ride story to the rest of the world. Mom, you might not want to read this. I wrote this right after we got home from the 7 hour nightmare ride. Now that I'm a couple of days away from the incident, I feel better about it. There is just some point where you have to say "if it's meant to be, it will be." I'm at that point.

October 8, 2004

Last night there was a lot of rain, and the streets of Dhaka and presumably the rest of Bangladesh flooded. Buses were not able to travel from Comilla to Dhaka because of the rain, so this morning there were no buses. We convinced the driver of a black cab to take us to Comilla for 1200 taka. We were within 30 minutes of Comilla when a person on a bicycle suddenly pulled out in front of us. The driver didn’t have a chance to stop and we broadsided him. The cycle went under the car and the person went over the top. Anyone who has hit a squirrel knows that awful feeling in the pit of your stomach when you feel that thud. Imagine how it feels to hit a human being. It was a big thud. He hit the front bumper, the windshield, and the roof, flew through the air, and then landed on the ground.

Immediately about 50 people came and surrounded the car and began yelling.

When we had our security briefing at the US Embassy, the “Risk Security Officer” was very blasé about the whole safety situation in Bangladesh. The one thing he made it a point to emphasize was that if an American is ever involved in a road accident, it’s best to get out of there as fast as possible. Because of the “mob mentality” in Bangladesh, crowds often take justice into their own hands, and usually look for the “richest” person in the group to take their revenge upon. If an American is in the group, they usually go after them.

At that moment I was absolutely terrified. I was so scared that the mob would start beating on the car (which they did) and then start wrecking the car and then light it on fire. Somehow they cooled down enough for the driver and Dadu get out of the car and discuss the accident with the leaders of the area. I was never so scared in my entire life.

Maya explained to me that Dadu (my brother-in-law) and the driver would have to sit with whoever was the leader in the area and try to decide whose fault the accident was. Obviously, considering the way people drive in Bangladesh, there is no way to pin the blame on one person. The cyclist didn’t look before he crossed the road and the driver was driving too fast and swerving around a bus. Both events are common in Bangladesh, but today they just happened to coincide at the wrong moment. Apparently however there is a law that states when two cars get in an accident, the bigger car is always at fault.

Well, as they sat an argued, it was really hot in the car and I was too scared to get out. All of the frozen chicken nuggets and fish sticks that I had purchased at the American Embassy Commissary were melting in the back seat. Finally, Dadu convinced the mob to let us go to Comilla if the driver promised to stop on the way back. To make sure the driver would come back, they took his registration papers and send one guy along with him.

As we approached Comilla, we were stopped by the police so they could check the drivers papers. Of course, we had left the papers back at the accident scene. Then everyone started yelling about how that was a bad idea. I almost lost it at that point. Anyways, we had to sit for another hour and wait for one guy from the accident scene to bring the papers. The guy never came, and we ended up going forward without the papers, risking the police. No police caught us, fortunately, and we were able to get home. God knows what happened to the driver. I can only hope he’s okay. The cyclist was hurt pretty badly, and he was taken to the hospital. Someone thought he broke both his leg and his arm, and I’d wager there were a few cracked ribs if not a concussion to go along with it. I'm sure his life will be greatly affected by what happened.

The driver, who probably was so mad at himself that he consented to drive us to Comilla, will have to pay for the injured man's treatment, as well as the significant damage that was done to his car. If he got caught by the police without his papers, there will be a fine to pay to them as well. He will also either have to pay a fine for the accident, and possibly his boss will fire him. These guys don't make a lot, and I'm sure his life will be greatly affected as well.

As for me, I'm going to make sure that I take the bus next time, even if it means waiting an extra day.

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