Sunday, April 4, 2010


While I was away, someone had telephoned the local police and I found an inspector accompanied by a couple of policemen on my return to the scene of the accident. By this time, many of the onlookers had dispersed. However, a number of people lingered around, most of them at a respectable distance. There were some eye witnesses among them. The police took their statements and cautioned them to be available for further clarification if necessary. As soon as I appeared on the scene, they turned their attention on me. I answered their questions and told them exactly what had happened according to my knowledge. It seemed they were satisfied with my answers. As they had already taken a statement from the driver of the vehicle involved in the accident and the eye witnesses corroborated his statement, they wanted the car to be moved to the police station for fitness examination by their experts and the driver to accompany them for other formalities.

With the help of the police and that of the on-lookers, we managed to push the Volkswagen up the gradient to the road. We noticed that the laminated wind screen had cracked all over but still the pieces held together. The right headlamp was shattered and its reflector with a broken bulb in it, hung out on a wire. The engine started easily and as the clutch was released, the vehicle moved forward smoothly. Obviously it was in running condition. My friend drove the car while a policeman sat in the front passenger seat and gave directions. The rest of our party crammed into my car and we followed the Volkswagen to the police station.

We sat on some benches and waited in a narrow hall for at least three quarters of an hour before the driver of the accident car was summoned to the presence of the officer in charge. I accompanied him without being invited. The officer waved us to a couple of straight-backed chairs and asked the driver to narrate in detail the events that led to the accident. He interrupted him at times to ask him a question or two, while making a note on a notepad in front of him. He asked the questions in a friendly manner and there was no threat or intimidation in his voice. Later he asked me also a few questions pertaining to my role in the whole affair. By the end of the session, it appeared that he was convinced that the cyclist was at fault and the motorist could not have avoided hitting him as he crossed the road so suddenly into the path of the oncoming vehicle. Just a few minutes before the accident, the red Volkswagen had overtaken my friend's vehicle and the cyclist might not have seen or even heard the car behind.

Now the big question in our mind was "what next?" As if reading our thoughts the officer said that the driver of the accident car would have to stay behind until certain formalities were done including the fitness examination of his vehicle by an examiner from the police headquarters in order to find out whether the vehicle was in a roadworthy condition at the time of the accident. The rest of us were free to resume our journey. At this point, I politely told him that we would not leave our friend alone in a foreign country under such circumstances but would rather stay around until he was allowed to proceed along with us. He replied that there was a government guest house nearby where we could find food and accommodation and gave directions to reach there. However, he wanted the driver of the accident car to return to the police station as soon as possible after arranging accommodation for his family at the guest house. In the meanwhile his passport, car keys and blue book (car's registration book) were to be left behind.

All of us piled into my Datsun and went in search of the guest house. Soon we found the place and secured a couple of rooms for our overnight stay. We had a bite of lunch after which we left the ladies and the children at the guest house and returned to the police station.

The officer in charge had gone out and the door to his office was found closed. Someone had moved the accident car to the far end of the court yard, close to the inspection pit. One of the policemen told us to wait in the same dismal hall were we had waited earlier. We sat down on a bench and soon got immersed in our own thoughts, presumably on our present predicament and how and when we would be able to get out of it.

By 6 PM, it was quite dark outside and we could see the headlights of a few motor vehicles moving on the highway nearby. It was Easter Saturday and the traffic was very sparse. Most people were enjoying their long weekend either with their families or elsewhere. We were told that a radio message had been sent to summon the vehicle examiner from the police headquarters but no reply had been received so far. May be he was out of town, enjoying his Easter weekend or out of range to the radio call. Any way we had to stay around until we were permitted by the O/C to leave.

At 7.30 PM the officer in charge breezed in. He was no longer in the police uniform but smartly dressed in a sports jacket and dress pants. He nodded to us and went in to his office. There was very little activity going on in the building. As the night progressed, the temperature dropped and we felt a chill in the atmosphere. The yellow light from a single electric bulb in the hall made the place appear all the more gloomy. Two or three policemen on the night shift were seen moving around and no one paid any attention to us.

All on a sudden we noticed the bright headlights of a vehicle coming in through the gates. The vehicle, a Peugeot 504, came up to the car port in front of the building and screeched to a stop. A tall stout man wearing a long, white overcoat came out of the car with a clip board in one hand and a Hunter lantern in the other. We realized that the vehicle inspector had arrived. After reporting to the officer in charge, he went out to the parking lot accompanied by one of the policemen and began his work. However, his inspection did not take too long. He examined the condition of the tires, brakes, steering mechanism and the general condition of the car and noted down his findings and comments on a single sheet of paper. After handing his report to the officer in charge, he got into his car and drove away.

After a while, a constable came and told us that the officer in charge would like to see us. We went in and he pointed to the chairs so that we may sit down. The case file was in front of him. He told us that the vehicle examiner's report was sufficient proof to the fact that the vehicle was in a roadworthy condition at the time of the accident which meant that the accident was not caused by driving a faulty vehicle. As all other factors such as drunken driving, careless driving, exceeding the speed limit etc. had been ruled out in the earlier report by the police, the only charge applicable would be "unintentional man- slaughter". He added that after giving a signed statement to the effect that he would appear at his own expense for the trial whenever he was summoned by the court, the driver was free to leave the country. Then he handed back the car key and the documents he had taken earlier from the driver.

By the time we finished the formalities at the police station it was nearly 10 PM. As it was too late and we could not resume our journey during the night, we wanted to leave the accident car on the station premises until next morning. Our request was granted. When we thanked the officer in charge for all the kindness shown to us in spite of what had happened, he pointed to a framed photograph of the President of that country and told us in a matter of fact voice, "it is the wish of our President that we should be as helpful as possible to innocent people, especially to foreigners, who get into difficulties while they are in our country due to circumstances beyond their control. Gentlemen, I wish you and your families a safe journey back home".