Sunday, November 13, 2011


On this day, exactly two years ago, my train to Delhi derailed. 

It happened quite suddenly, in the middle of the night.  I was woken by a violent shaking and the sound of shrieking brakes, only moments before the entire carriage flipped on its side.   

The whole thing was over in a matter of seconds. 

I think that’s what makes it so confusing - that something so quick could have such a long-lasting impact.

They told me later that the train had been speeding, and that the tracks were loose due to sloppy maintenance.  When the driver braked suddenly before a bend, the train ripped the tracks right off their bearings.  Four of the twenty carriages were thrown on their sides.  In some places, jagged pieces of metal tore in through the sides of the carriages.   

But I didn’t know any of that then.  Inside my upturned carriage, I was sitting in the darkness amongst the crowd of passengers.  I had been thrown off my top bunk and had landed heavily on the people sleeping below me.  There was shouting and confusion.  I was covered in blood.   
The exits were blocked.  There was nothing to do but sit and wait.

As I sat there waiting, questions swirled through my head.   Was it normal for trains to do this in India?  How was I going to get to the airport now?  What if the carriage burst into flames?  Where were my shoes?  Was the water the man was offering me safe to drink?

An old lady beside me was chanting quietly in Hindi.  I realised guiltily that it hadn't even occurred to me to pray.  A young girl next to me smiled when I asked if she was okay.  “Yes, okay aunty” she replied calmly in English.   

After the longest half hour of my life, some of the men in the carriage managed to pry open a window above us, and to climb onto the roof and start pulling us out, one by one.  It was the strangest feeling to stand on top of the overturned carriage, looking out over the wreckage of the train, and the hundreds of people milling around the tracks. 
Traffic on the busy highway nearby was slowing down to look at the scene.  There were passengers  leaping onto the moving vehicles as they slowed, finding a way back into town.

Nothing about the moment I found myself in resembled my life anymore.   It felt like the moment in a nightmare when you realise you're only dreaming and wake up. 

It’s hard to articulate what changed in me that night. 

It felt like someone had snatched the reins of my life out of my hands.  It felt like the Anna who was pulled out of that train was a different person to the one who had boarded it only hours earlier.
But in a strange way it also felt like the whole thing had happened to someone else completely.

I think that’s why I experienced such huge feelings of confusion and loss in the days, weeks, and months (and now years) that followed the accident.  I can't really believe it happened to me, except for the scars on my body, and this feeling inside of me that wasn't there before. 

So even though I feel funny talking about it, and scared that people will think I'm being a drama queen, I want people to know. 
Because I want people to know me, and like it or not, the train crash is part of my story now.

And writing is the best way I know how.
So I wanted to write something that would explain how the crash has altered the course of my life.
And I wanted to write something to honour the people that died that night.
But I realise how little I understand, even two years down the track. 

So all I can really do is just stop and say:
This happened to me.
And keep accepting that.
And just carry on.


kaybee said...

ngā mihi aroha ki a koe, he wahine maia koe, e kare xxx

kaybee said...

p.s. love the subtle pun x

frank wilson mccoll said...