Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Hidden Post

One great thing about Blogger is this: If I start a post and save it without posting it, and then post it at a later date, it doesn't go to the top of the list, it stays in chronological order.

Hence, this is the hidden post. Not meant for the faint-hearted. Not meant for big imaginations. Just keep it in context. The following two situations could have happened anywhere in the world. Just out of coincidence, I happened to be in the right place at the right time. Or wrong place at the wrong time - however you want to define it.

Within three days I saw two dead bodies... an omen? I don't know, but it did happen.

So here it goes, first instance. On the way back from Geyshing, I took a shared jeep to New Jalpaiguri. Shared jeep but it was only three of us and a driver. Closer and closer, we were driving down the mountain and it was apparent we were getting close to NJP. At one particular spot, a lot of cars had stopped and a lot of people were out, looking over the cliff.

It looked like this: the road went straight, until the hill got too steep. At which the road went to the right and followed the side of the hill, until it turned left, still following the hill and then veering right. From a birds eye view it would appear to be a “U” or very curved “V”. On the right side of the road the hill went straight up, and on the left it went down. At the apex of this V, I believe there was a small waterfall or a trickle of water. Perhaps that water better describes how that part of the hill was formed over millions of years.

Again, from a birds eye view, with the V being correctly positioned to resemble the letter, we had stopped on the left side of it and got out. Looking towards the opposite side, groups of people were gathering, all looking down into this ravine. There was a big red truck among those people, with faded yellow letters saying: “West Bengal Emergency and Fire”. A rope protruded out it's backside and went into the ravine.

Following the rope, at certain points along it were people in uniforms and yellow hard hats holding on, looking down, looking up, and ultimately guiding the rope. A group of people at the top of the ravine were pulling on the rope. There had been an accident. This much was obvious. What kind, I was not sure. “Someone fell?” I asked our driver. Speaking very little English, he nodded, but not in confidence.

At the end of this rope was a man not in uniform, helping the emergency crews with a large white tarp at the end of the rope. It appeared as if perhaps a truck had veered off the road and spilled it's goods into the ravine and the crews and the driver were trying to salvage what they could. But, there was no truck on the road.

So, as my imagination began to take control, perhaps the truck had fallen, but due to the size of trucks, the driver was okay and still, they were trying to get his goods out. The white tarp they were pulling up the hill was evidently filled with something, perhaps soft, perhaps hard, but it was not obvious. Judging from where I was, the tarp was perhaps 3 feet wide and 4 or 5 feet tall. And no more than a couple feet deep. I settled my mind saying there was no way a person could fit in there,unless it was a bloody mess. Anyway, at the moment, it was halfway hidden behind a large boulder and entangled amongst the rocks. The crews were trying to free it.

A strong tap on my elbow and the driver was telling me to get back in the car, we've been here long enough. As I turned to walk, I gave one last look at the white tarp as they freed it from the boulder.

Protruding out the side was a foot. I turned back and entered the car, not being able the see the tarp anymore, telling my mind that I simply must have seen something else. After all, it was only a split second that I thought I saw the foot. My eyes were glued on the ravine as we drove around the V of this hill.

As we got to the other side I could see the sweating faces of 5 men pulling at the rope, pulling up the tarp. I looked down into the ravine. No tarp, no people. I felt relieved. Until a reflection of light caught my eye. I looked a little further and down at the bottom of the ravine, caught underneath a rock was a black and silver motorcycle.

I had no choice but to succumb to my imagination - as horrible as it may have been – for the rest of the ride.

Later, on the train ride, I spoke about what I saw and Tenzing had commented on it too. He said that when he took the jeep the next day, his driver, in that exact same spot as I described, right after the dam, had said there was a bad accident there just the day before. And rarely are there such bad accidents.

At least that's what I'm told.

Second instance:

This incident is pure coincidence. It must have happened just hours before I saw it. Anyway, here it goes:

I woke up on the first morning of my long train ride. Staggering to my feet, I stumbled through my bag to get my toiletries and towel so that I could wash up. I noticed that we had stopped at a station. In Indian trains, stopping at a station could mean 2 min or half an hour. Either way, I went to the sink, located at the end of each of the cars.

Pulling up on the faucet, water rushed over my toothbrush. I was thinking about how many people are so afraid of even putting their mouths anywhere near the water. Most water is okay to wash up with, just don't swallow it. After I was done, I moved out of the way so that someone behind me could also use the sink. Slowly, I squeezed out some toothpaste onto the brush.

The toothpaste was still in it's somewhat solid form, but warm. Not disgusting warm, but warm none the less. Eyes still glazed over from sleeping, I walked over to the door of the train, which was open, to hopefully catch a nice morning breeze, or wake up in some rays of morning sunshine. My tired eyes slowly looked up from the rocks and the tracks that lay still beneath my feet.

“Oh c'mon, first thing in the morning?” I thought to myself. I looked up and two tracks over was a dead animal. It must of got hit the night before.

Slowly, as slow as the sun rises or sets over the horizon, my brushing slowed down. My heart slowed down. The crows calls to the dead grew louder. More crows began to gather. I nearly drooled toothpaste onto the floor below.

Feet. Ribs. Two nipples. Hands. That was no dead animal, but a person. From the look of it, a poor person, an old person. Probably a beggar. To know what I saw, well this is where it gets gross. Skip this part if you are queasy.

The body was folded in half. Ribs and chest to the sky, the ankles were below the shoulder blades on it's back. I say 'it's' for two reasons. One, it was now considered a corpse. Two, it was impossible to tell if it was a man or a woman. After the body died, muscles and blood stopped, and everything obviously sunk with gravity. The chest could have been that of a man, or simple an older woman, whose breasts had already sunk into her chest.

The body was broken, as in opened up, in two places. At the hips, where the legs bent behind the back was completely torn open. The cawing of crows, their beaks pecking and pulling at intestines and internal parts. I feel my own stomach quiver as I write this. The intestines were not exactly spilled out on the floor, but still nicely compacted within the body, barely protruding where the skin had broke and the legs snapped.

Then there was the face. This is also what made it hard to identify if it were a man or a woman. There was no face. I was not even sure I saw bone. Instead it was a mess of blood, cartilage and muscle in between the two feet on the ground. Just looking at the face made me realize just how fragile our bodies are. And just how invincible we really think we are. The face was still connected at the front of the neck, but splayed out on the ground like it was an old dirty rag. Like someone had said, 'enough of this rag', and threw it on the ground. Skin is no thicker than rags. Bodies no cleaner.

It was a sight for sore eyes, and not a way to wake up in the morning. I turned around to see who was around me and Tenzing was standing there, smiling. I said, “Look”, and away his smile went.

“Oh”, was all he could said.

“Have you seen anything like this before?” I had asked.

“No, never.”

Before he could say more, we heard a sound, a dreaded sound. The horn of a train. And not our train. Pressed together, we peered out of the door and towards the front of the train to have our worst fears confirmed. On the tracks of a dead body, another train was coming. The crows glanced at each other and fled in a flurry.

“She was definitely hit by a train. I think it will pass over her.” Tenzing said. At that moment our train whistled and began to depart, and as we left the body, all splayed, splattered and torn on the tracks, the other train passed right over it, not even grazing it (to our thanks).

Once back inside we talked about what we had seen. Tshering (Tenzing's sister) said she saw it too and thought it was a goat or something. Surya had never seen anything like that before. For some reason Tenzing kept saying that we should have taken pictures. Perhaps, but I don't know if I would want pictures of a corpse on my camera or computer. Something irks me about that.

Either way, whoever reads this, don't think of either of these situations of the standard. It could have happened in any country. The second situation, that body was still alive almost. It couldn't have been hit more than a couple hours ago... it was complete chance that we happened to stop where we stopped and saw it.

But, I know this will affect people's judgment of India anyways. What can you do.


  1. Hi Norman,
    I read this before breakfast. What a way to start the day. Your decsriptions made me feel as if I were there.

  2. In all honesty, I didn't think anyone would find this post! Let alone so soon. You two are the winner, I'll have to think of some prize....