Most accidents are — well, accidents. According to one of the definitions in the Oxford dictionary, an accident is “an event that happens by chance or that is without apparent or deliberate cause”. But there are some incidents which, while falling under another Oxford dictionary definition — “an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury” — seem fated or destined or pre-ordained. A Tibetan lama at the Sakya centre in Dehra Dun and a pandit (priest) at the Sapt Rishi in Haridwar explained it in almost the same way: if a death occurs in an unfortunate accident, we usually call it akaal mrityu (untimely death or death before the ordained time). But in several cases we have seen that the death was ordained to happen in an accident, the panditji explained. The venerable Tibetan lama concurred with the explanation. Varun (not his real name), just 33 years old, died in a freak accident. He was riding his two wheeler to work and had just turned on to Siri Fort Road in New Delhi when a tree fell on him, killing him on the spot. Stranger still, there were other vehicles besides him, behind him and in front of him but nobody else got struck or hurt. The accident made headlines.
But what appeared to be a tragic, bizarre accident seemed to have been pre-ordained. In the days ahead, Varun’s dazed family members were even more shocked when a string of coincidences came to light and they connected all the dots. For no apparent reason, about a fortnight before his shocking end, Varun had started checking out financial arrangements for his family, which included his parents, his wife, a six year old son. He made a list of the family’s entire investments and when he handed it over to his surprised father and wife and they asked him the reason, he just smiled and answered, “One can’t trust life” and on being chided for saying this replied pragmatically that it was always good for the family to know what was where.
Varun was never a very tidy person but he made it a point in that significant fortnight to clear his drawers of clutter. He also called up school and college friends he’d been out of touch with for a while and suggested a get together, which unfortunately didn’t happen because everybody had yet to agree on a convenient date. A list of all the many other things he did as if he had a premonition of his death would make long reading, but his family clearly recalls each and every act. They were a bit puzzled by all the attention to detail but weren’t really disturbed. In fact, they were quite appreciative, thinking Varun was finally doing what his father always advocated : “Be organised”.
“If only we’d been wiser and thought more deeply”, his wife Deepti (not her real name) laments. “ Going back over the pattern, we may not have been able to prevent Varun’s death, but there are so many regrets about the things we could have done together as a family had we known he was going to leave us so soon”. The strangest was that on the fateful day, Varun decided to do something he had never ever done before -- not to take his car to office, but go on his two wheeler, used only for short trips to the market.
It has now been many months since Varun departed to the other world, but has he actually left? At first his family didn’t connect Varun to a strange happening which began within a month of Varun’s death. One day, Varun’s father pulled out a shirt to wear for the day from his cupboard. It was only when he opened its ironed folds that he found what looked like blood stains on it. When the lady who ironed the family’s clothes came to collect the washed clothes for ironing, Deepti showed her the stains and admonished her despite her denials of carelessness: “Please make sure that your or snacks or whatever don’t spoil our clothes – you must have seen the stains, of red chutney or tomato ketchup or whatever, when folding the shirt, at least you could have told us”.
Going back over the pattern, we may not have been able to prevent Varun’s death, but there are so many regrets about the things we could have done together as a family had we known he was going to leave us so soon.
That evening, when the day’s ironed clothes came back, even though it was going to be a bind opening the folds and refolding the clothes, Deepti decided to check, just in case, before putting the clothes in everybody’s respective cupboards. She checked Varun’s father’s clothes first and they were fine. But she was shocked to find blood stains on one of her son’s white school shirts. Instead of raising the issue again with the lady who ironed their clothes, they decided to give them to another ‘press wallah’ in the locality, who was all too happy at the prospect of getting more work on a regular basis.
This time, when the ironed clothes were brought back and checked, shock was replaced with disbelief! The bloodstains were there again, once again on one of Varun’s father’s shirt. Friends and relatives were apprised of the strange, repeated appearance of the blood stains. What could be the explanation? It was significant that so far, the blood stains had appeared only on shirts of male members in the family. After intensive discussions, it was decided not to send out clothes for ironing, but iron them at home, and see if the stains still appeared.
Deepti ironed the clothes herself, folded them neatly, and put them away in everyone’s respective cupboards. When the clothes were checked the next morning, the bloodstains had returned, once again on Varun’s father’s shirt. The family priest was summoned and the entire sequence of events narrated to him. His assessment: Varun’s spirit was not at peace and was trying to draw attention to his continued presence in this world for some reason. The ritual of Narayan Bali and other prayers recommended in cases of unnatural deaths, already performed at the time of Varun’s demise, were performed again but to no avail. Varun’s family is desperately trying to find a solution, because they now know that till they find one, they will be haunted by the blood stained shirts and more important, Varun’s soul will remain trapped in this world, unable to journey on to the other world and rest in peace.