26th February, 2017 5:30 AM

I usually just refer to it as the "accident", but it wasn't an accident at all, was it? It was a case of mob violence. On 26th February, 2017, at 5:30 am, I was almost killed by a group of angry people, armed with sticks and stones. That day changed me forever. And it's the first time in more than two years that I am willing to tell everyone the details of what happened on that fateful morning.

I am Rajinder. I hail from the hilly state of Himachal Pradesh. I worked in retail before getting promoted to the marketing department of the brand I work for, back in 2016. I moved to Gurgaon for the job and took up residence at a hostel in Manesar, at a walking distance from my office. Things were going well. 

In January of 2017, a new guy called Shammi became my roommate. Shammi had a big personality and everybody took a shine on him instantly. By big, I mean the kind of macho aggressive that young men usually gravitate towards. But I never had any problems with him. I was neither too close to him nor was I too aloof. I was just living my life, enjoying my new job.

The 25th of February was a working Saturday but office closed at 3 pm. Which meant that I had the whole evening to myself. I worked out, played some cricket with colleagues and got some dinner packed before returned to my hostel room. I was just in bed, listening to some songs when Shammi came in with a bunch of his friends. They were loud and tipsy. The set up the woofer and played songs. It was Saturday evening and everyone was having fun. 

Every now and then, Shammi would step out to the balcony and shout out some drunken profanities. I thought it was weird, but ignored it as the effect of the alcohol. By 11pm, they'd finished their drink and Sahmmi got ready to see off his friends. Here's what I didn't know at that time: Shammi and his friends had crossed path with a bunch of local boys on their way in. These were guys who'd been sitting on their cars, drinking, parked across the road. The reason for the tiff was something very innocuous, like someone staring at someone, but it had escalated a little since they were all drunk. So Shammi had been swearing at those guys from the balcony. And those guys were noticing it too.

So when Shammi stepped out to see the friends off, those guys were still there and heckled him a little. So he came back, gathered six to eight of his friends from the hostel and had a fight with them. They took broken bottles and hockey sticks along. The ruckus grabbed my attention, but by the time I stepped out to the balcony of my room, the fight had passed its prime. It wasn't clear who won, but some people looked genuinely hurt. Shammi and the guys from the hostel came back. While the others retired to their rooms, Shammi packed his bags and left in the middle of the night, without saying much.

I locked the room and slept off.

At around 5.15 am in the morning, a stone came flying through the window, smashing the glass and sending pieces of it flying across the floor. I woke up. There was a lot of commotion outside. I looked out and there were around 15 to 20 guys outside the hostel gate. They were throwing stones at all the floors and calling out to the guys who'd earlier wrecked their friends. Some of them managed to jump across the boundary and enter the premises. Once inside, they started wreaking havoc on the motorcycles and cars parked in the compound. This was a mob.

Never before had I ever felt this kind of fear for my life. They were looking for Shammi. I could hear sounds of screaming from the lower floor. They were beating someone up, asking for Shammi's room number. Whoever it was gave up the number of my room pretty quickly. I put up the remaining of the bolts on the door, switched off the lights and hid behind a table. Fear has a crazy way of affecting your body. You'll know what I am talking about if you've ever been chased by dogs. Your body goes numb, or it goes all shaky. Mine was doing the latter, as I sat there, surrounded by a crazed mob.

They started beating at the door soon, some six to eight of them. I looked out of the window to see if I could jump out, but some of the guys were standing guard outside. And the ones at the door were going crazy, shouting out the most explicit of profanities. And in that moment, cornered like a hunted animal, all I could think about was my parents and how my death would affect them. Everytime I left home after a vacation, my mum would ask me to be careful, not to get into fights or go near water. She'd tell me that I was her only son and my life was precious. While at that time, I'd usually laugh it off, thinking she was being too dramatic, here I was, about to be killed.

One of them managed to climb and glance through the skylight and informed them that "the bastard is still inside". This renewed the vigour with which they were pounding on the door. The hinges of the door were beginning to get loose and I was scared that if they manage to break in, they wouldn't even give me a chance to explain that I wasn't the one they were looking for. So very reluctantly, I decided to open the door and explain and hoped they'd listen to reason. As I undid the last bolt on that door, a hundred feelings ran through my mind. The very next moment, a swift blow to my head knocked those feelings right away.

I was down of the floor, curled up, trying to protect my head. And all of them were going at me with their sticks. I noticed one guy didn't have a stick so he grabbed a cast iron pan from the kitchen and started beating me up with it. Pain is something you never get used to. The beating continued for what seemed like hours but most probably was around eight minutes. They kept hitting me till I was conscious. Toward the end of it, I remember feeling dizzy and disoriented, like my head weighed a hundred pounds. And then, I passed out after the fifth blow to the head.

When I regained consciousness, I looked around. They'd left, assuming I was dead. And I felt like I was. The room looked all red to me, like I was looking through another dimension. That's when I realized I was covered in blood. It was in my eyes too. And everything hurt. I cried out for help, but nobody responded. Maybe they couldn't hear my feeble voice, maybe they were too scared to step out of the rooms. I tried to crawl and reach my phone which was on the bed. It took me several minutes. I called up Abdullah, my colleague, who lived 40 kms away and tried explaining what had happened. He said he was leaving right away but it'd be a while before he would reach. He told me to try reaching out to Sunil who lived in the area.

Sunil was from another team, and lived nearby. When I called, he picked up. I later found out that he'd slept off, after a night of revelry with friends, with his phone on his chest and the ringer woke him up. It took him a while before he could understand what I was saying. He said he'll come right away. In the ten minutes or so it took Sunil to reach the hostel, I called him up three more times. He arrived with a couple of his hostel mates, ared with hockey sticks just in case those guys were still around. He later told me that the hostel looked like a war ground, torn apart by the stones.

Sunil almost fainted when he saw me. I was conscious and all I could do was ask him to get me to the hospital so they could put me under. Every part of my body hurt. He said he was calling a cab but I remember asking him to take me on his bike. A half an hour later, we reached the Rockland hospital. They called the police while admitting me and I passed out soon after. When  woke up, I was bandaged all over. I got 22 stitches on my head, across 3 gashes. I had two fractures on my left hand. I had bruises all over and some internal bleeding. The doctor told me that I was lucky that the blows to my head hadn't hit any critical place or I'd have died right there. "Lucky" didn't seem like an appropriate word.

There were a whole bunch of people from the office who'd gathered around by noon. They were all concerned for me. They asked me to call my parents. I didn't have the heart to. I was worried they'd freak out. So I decided to call my sister's husband and ask him to come. He lived in Himachal, some thirty kms away from my parent's town. Once he heard about what had happened, he quickly went to my father and they left for Gurgaon.

The police took my statement and kept asking me if I wanted to press charges. I told them I wanted to wait for my parents before taking any legal action. In the background, certain things had happened. Some time during the assault on the hostel, someone had called the landlord, who'd arrived soon after the assailants had left. But they had left one of their cars across the street. The landlord had clicked pictures of the car. It was registered to a local governing authority. As it turns out, the government official's son had been in the scuffle that had transpired in the previous night.

Shammi and his friends had wounded one of the boys very gravely and he had died before reaching the hospital. That had driven them crazy. They'd spent the night to mobilize enough bodies for the assault. They had notice the floor in which Shammi lived and had come to find him, but had found me instead. They were crazed enough not to care who they hurt. The next day, after my father and brother-in-law had arrived, the government official visited me at the hospital. He pleaded with me not to press charges. He told me that they had lost a boy too and that had driven the "kids" to such violence. All I could say to him was that they should have at least identified the right person.

My father was grateful that I was alive and we decided against pressing charges. We were from another state and going against people from Haryana in their own state, when relatives of a government official was involved didn't seem worth the hassle. Our office had a tie up with Fortis hospital and I was moved there after two days. I was kept there for a couple of weeks, after which, my parents took me back to our hometown. I took nearly three months to recover enough to go back to work.

When I came back to Gurgaon, I stayed with Abdullah for a while. The trauma of the assault did leave some psychological effects. For quite a while after I joined back, being left alone would invoke severe anxiety and panic in me. I stopped trusting people in general. Violent scenes in movies would stress me out. But some positive things also happened. I started working out more, focussing on being fit. And the whole incident just got me free of those everyday apprehensions I used to have earlier. The "accident" put things in perspective. I became a more confident person in the aftermath.

So talking to the CEO of my company, which would have been scary earlier, doesn't scare me now. It gave me a voice, a stronger one than before. I became generally more confident with people, once I recovered from the trauma. It gave me a respect for life. Just recently, the metal rod and screws, placed inside my arm, to help reset the broken bones, were removed. All that remains from that accident are the numerous scars across my body, which will always remind me of what happened.

I now live in a flat within a gated community, where the security is pretty strict. I have a couple of flatmates, who're fun and decent, but mostly keep to themselves. I no longer get panic attacks when left alone. I am thinking of getting hair weaving done, for my receding hairline. So, all in all, I am fine. And happy to be alive.

I would forever be in debt of Sunil, Abdullah and all others who helped save my life and have been a constant source of support and love. These people and their big hearts helped me get through some real tough times.

Comments

  1. You are really blessed. This happened not because of those guys. It is because of their parents who don't know to take a child in good path.. you be bold and be strong.. Thinking of our good times in that room, my heart melts and shakes...!

    ReplyDelete
  2. You are really blessed. This happened not because of those guys. It is because of their parents who don't know to take a child in good path.. you be bold and be strong.. Thinking of our good times in that room, my heart melts and shakes...!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Stay Safe and Stay Blessed. Some incedents leaves us with a Lifetime learning. The best way is to move on with these learnings.

    ReplyDelete

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