Triumph of the Human Spirit

Triumph of the Human Spirit

There’s a famous quote that goes: "Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air, but only for one second without hope." Hope is that all important ingredient that is found in all stories of survival. There is one more strikingly common feature in such stories -the triumph of human spirit in the face of adversity. A few youngsters from Thane demonstrated this quite aptly.  

A few days ago a bus filled with about 20 students from Thane was returning from a nature camp at a Wild Life Santuary near Alibag. The camp was one of the many organised by city-based student welfare group Jidnyasa for all age groups. The campers comprised of one guide, Chitra Oak, seven seniors (college students under 20) and the remaining school children between 9 and 15. It was 3.45 pm and the bus was negotiating the ghats five km from the camp house, when unseasonal rains rendered the roads slippery. For some reason, the driver lost control and did not turn at the right moment – resulting in the bus plunging 40 feet into the valley. It was a shocking nose dive, but thankfully the valley was densely populated with trees and bushes which prevented it from hitting the ground, which could’ve been devastating.

Mercifully, in spite of the terrorising fate of the bus, there were no major injuries, except to Chitra Oak, who was the guide to the students and was also the oldest passenger. Oak was in tears because of the unbearable pain – apparently, she had fractured her limbs. After the initial shock, the senior students showed an amazing presence of mind. Instead of succumbing to panic, which is very natural in such circumstances, the college students made sensible use of their minds and began to work towards rescuing the others. Slowly, everyone was pulled out of the hanging bus and helped onto the road. Afterward, the seniors formed a human chain to transfer the luggage to a safer location. Once everyone was out, their first priority was Oak, who seemed to be badly hurt. Manasi Apte and Manas Takle went to fetch transport for the injured lady so that she could be taken to the nearest hospital. The location of the accident was quite remote and hardly inhabited. Manas found a six-seater (a cab commonly found in the interior Maharashtra) and after consulting a local doctor, who feared multiple fractures, they took Oak to a hospital in Alibag.

Meanwhile, the other seniors were trying to calm down the younger children back at the accident site. These youngsters had still to recover from the shock – some of them were crying.

Mobiles were out of range and another senior, Abhijit walked for half a km, managed to get a lift and reach a telephone from where he called Surendra Dighe, managing trustee of Jidnyasa, to inform him about the incident. Dighe immediately arranged for another bus and headed towards the accident spot. He also called the camp house at Alibaug and informed the instructors about the mishap. Two instructors then brought the shocked campers back to the camp house.

Manasi, who played an important role in the handling the situation, said, "I had not expected this. Nobody does. So for a few sparing moments, I panicked. I was sitting next to Chitra Aunty, on the front seat. When I turned back and saw that my sister and others were safe, I felt a sense of relief, after which I began to think what to do next."

As often happens in such situations, Murphy’s Law came into effect. Mid-way, the new bus that Dighe was bringing met with a freak accident and its radiator ruptured. So Dighe had to return to Thane and arrange for another way to bring back the kids. This time he took two Sumos with him. Finally, he reached Alibaugh a little after midnight. And when he saw the bus, he couldn’t believe his eyes. "I had not imagined such a severe accident. The bus was actually hanging in the middle of the nowhere, supported by bushes and trees," said Dighe. Later, after he heard the account from the children, Dighe’s chest swelled with pride. He said, "The seniors showed amazing presence of mind. It was indeed a true display of the values of courage and determination that Jidnyasa stands for and tries to instil in every student. Now I know that Jidnyasa will live, long after the founders."

In the end, it was teamwork, says Manasi. All seniors maintained their calm, ensured that unnecessary panic was kept at bay, and conquered the adversity. It was a victory of the human spirit.

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