Eerie 18km Milestone At Manali
It was a cold, chilly evening as we made up our way towards Manali. The biting wind prevented us from opening our car windows. The winds passing through dense foliage sounded like sad wails. Conversation within the car had dried up, and an eerie silence took its place. The lively, and prone to being voluminous the driver, started speeding up. Darkness enveloped us just as suddenly. Everything outside was a carpet of varying shades of black and grey. A place known for its lush green meadows, forest, and tall pine trees felt more like a meeting place for long-departed souls.
The milestones whizzed by…24...23…19…18 just as the cars came from the opposite direction.
And then it happened as we drove past the whitewashed 18km milestone on a narrow stretch of road with a blind turn.
A huge Vehicle came hurtling down towards with a roar! The road had space for only one vehicle – mercifully, I did not have to make the decision! In an instant decision, our driver had to choose - between– driving into the huge bus – into a 1000-foot ravine – or the mountain to our left. Some survival instinct force made him drive into the mountain – A huge crash or was it a mini-explosion – the car was in smithereens - we lived to tell the tale. The bus stood for a few seconds – I heard a few frantic shouts from outside before my eyes closed. And there was silence again.
Inquiries later said there was no large bus driving down at that time of the day! Were the occupants of our car crazy? Did we all see something, or were we daydreaming?
Three years later – my wife's family planned a holiday headed to Manali. Planning was high on spirits and full of enthusiasm. Wishing them a great holiday, they left for Manali. The daily call from them was at 9 pm to apprise us of the mountains' beauty and delicious butter Parathas at roadside dhabas - we envied them. Our own experience had long since dissolved and disappeared from our minds.
A few days later – we received a call from an unknown number from HP at 6 pm– the caller said there had been an accident and a car had fallen down the ravine – my heart sunk, and my hand suddenly felt it would sink with the weight of the phone. I whispered – "Kahaan pay" – he said – "Sahab – Woh athrah meel ke Patthar say thoda aage.." - Somehow, I just knew.